The Cougar Conundrum
6 x 9
6 x 9
The relationship between humans and mountain lions has always been uneasy. A century ago, mountain lions were vilified as a threat to livestock and hunted to the verge of extinction. In recent years, this keystone predator has made a remarkable comeback, but today humans and mountain lions appear destined for a collision course. Its recovery has led to an unexpected conundrum: Do more mountain lions mean they’re a threat to humans and domestic animals? Or, are mountain lions still in need of our help and protection as their habitat dwindles and they’re forced into the edges and crevices of communities to survive?
Mountain lion biologist and expert Mark Elbroch welcomes these tough questions. He dismisses long-held myths about mountain lions and uses groundbreaking science to uncover important new information about their social habits. Elbroch argues that humans and mountain lions can peacefully coexist in close proximity if we ignore uninformed hype and instead arm ourselves with knowledge and common sense. He walks us through the realities of human safety in the presence of mountain lions, livestock safety, competition with hunters for deer and elk, and threats to rare species, dispelling the paranoia with facts and logic. In the last few chapters, he touches on human impacts on mountain lions and the need for a sensible management strategy. The result, he argues, is a win-win for humans, mountain lions, and the ecosystems that depend on keystone predators to keep them in healthy balance.
The Cougar Conundrum delivers a clear-eyed assessment of a modern wildlife challenge, offering practical advice for wildlife managers, conservationists, hunters, and those in the wildland-urban interface who share their habitat with large predators.
"Elbroch takes readers on a tour of cougar biology and ecology, emphasizing how important the big cats are to the ecosystem...Policymakers, conservationists, and hunters alike will find this a useful, if sometimes controversial, handbook."
"A concise account illustrating issues surrounding wildlife conservation efforts in the United States while providing an informative natural history of the mountain lion."
"The book…is perfect for wildlife biologists, the general public, and nature enthusiasts, especially those who want to learn how to live successfully with a large carnivore that has been given an unduly bad rap for being dangerous around people…This is an important book."
Canadian Field Naturalist
"This is an enlightening book that provides facts and hope for this animal’s future."
"The Cougar Conundrum belongs in any nature collection strong in conservation and animal protection, discussing the rise of mountain lions in human areas and why they should be considered a positive force…. The result is a powerful survey especially recommended for those who live in areas where cougars are making a comeback."
"This is a well-illustrated and very readable book that explores a range of different perspectives on the challenges of living with the cougar …. This book will be of interest to policy makers and conservation scientists, as well as nature enthusiasts and community members living in areas where cougars are present."
"A refreshing take on the relationships between humans and cougars, written by one of the foremost cougar experts in North America…. The Cougar Conundrum is a must-read for anyone in the carnivore or ungulate realm or anyone who has a sincere interest in human-wildlife coexistence."
Journal of Wildlife Management
"The mountain lion deserves more champions like Mark Elbroch. In The Cougar Conundrum, the biologist Elbroch debunks the pernicious myths fueling the persecution of North America’s iconic big cat. But the optimist Elbroch offers a more compelling vision of coexistence with one of nature’s most wondrous creations."
Will Stolzenburg, author of "Heart of a Lion"
"Pumas are a felid species whose range connects the American continent. From Canada to Argentina, managers share similar challenges protecting this resilient cat and finding a path toward coexistence."
Sandra Ortiz, veterinarian, and vice president, Latin America, Wild Felid Association
"This thought-provoking book reflects Elbroch’s relentless pursuit to challenge state wildlife agencies to promote a new standard of inclusivity in wildlife decision making and manage cougars on peer-reviewed science."
Jim Williams, author of "Path of the Puma" and Regional Supervisor for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
"The Cougar Conundrum is a deep dive into the most widely distributed and successful large carnivore in the western hemisphere. This book will help you consider the place of big predators and people on the planet and how to create a new era of reasonable coexistence, including restoration of cougars into a substantial fraction of their former range."
Paul Beier, Regents’ Professor of Conservation Biology, Northern Arizona University
Chapter 1. The Lord of Stealthy Murder, and Other Misconceptions
Chapter 2. Staying Safe in Lion Country
Chapter 3. Of Lions, Pets, and Livestock
Chapter 4. Sharing Prey with Mountain Lions
Chapter 5. The Great Hunting Debate
Chapter 6. Lions on the Eastern Seaboard
Chapter 7. How to Love a Keystone Predator
Chapter 8. The Money Behind Mountain Lion Management
Chapter 9. Toward Coexistence with Mountain Lions
About the Author
Mountain Lions aren’t frequent visitors to Seattle’s urban areas, though unconfirmed sightings have been reported in places like Discovery Park as recently as January 2021. But a little further to the east, mountain lions (also called cougars or pumas) are regularly spotted on rural farms and in hiking areas, parks, and suburban yards. Once hunted to the brink of extinction, mountain lions have made a massive comeback in North America. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife reports a mountain lion population between 3,500 and 4,000 in our state alone. Its recovery has led to some critical questions: Is their growing population leading to more sightings, or are human and cougar habitats colliding? Do mountain lions still need protection as a species or do increases in their numbers make them a threat to humans?
In his book, The Cougar Conundrum: Sharing the World with a Successful Predator, mountain lion biologist Mark Elbroch dispels myths about mountain lions and shares groundbreaking science about their social habits. Elbroch describes cougars as curious, cautious, and generally peaceful; they are keystone predators that enrich and support healthy ecosystems — our shared ecosystems. But Elbroch also acknowledges that cougars are also powerful hunters; is it possible for humans and mountain lions to coexist? Elbroch tackles this question and more, offering practical advice for wildlife managers, conservationists, hunters, and those living in communities where large predators are becoming more common.
Mark Elbroch is an internationally recognized expert on carnivores and cougars. He is Director of Panthera’s Puma Program and has contributed to cougar research and conservation in Idaho, California, Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, Mexico, and Chile. His work with mountain lions has been covered by National Geographic, the BBC, National Public Radio, The New York Times, Scientific American, and The Washington Post, among others. Elbroch is twice a National Geographic Explorer, a 2011 Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation Fellow for environmental leadership, and the 2017 recipient of the Craighead Conservation Award for “creating positive and lasting conservation outcomes.” He is a regular contributor to National Geographic’s Cat Watch blog and has authored and coauthored ten books on natural history.
Chris Morgan is an ecologist and award-winning conservationist, educator, TV host, film producer, speaker, and podcaster. In 2019 Morgan partnered with KUOW in Seattle to produce and host “THE WILD with Chris Morgan,” a podcast series that takes listeners on immersive adventures into the wild to discover incredible species and conservationists. He has regularly hosted TV productions for PBS, National Geographic Television, BBC, and Discovery Channel, and has appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman. Morgan is a familiar host and voice of PBS NATURE and has narrated over twenty films since 2011.
Presented by KUOW and Town Hall Seattle as part of the Town Green series.