Reintroduce the Cougar to the Eastern US
In 1994 a momentous event occurred, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park. In the following years many species of plants started recovering from years of overgrazing by Elk and soon after beavers returned to the park, able to once again find the Willows necessary for their survival. With the beavers came the beaver dams which provided habitat for many species of fish as well as moose, otters, mink, wading birds, waterfowl and amphibians. Meanwhile the diminished coyote population has led to a rise in foxes, and that in turn has shifted the odds of survival for coyote prey such as hares and young deer, as well as for the small rodents and ground-nesting birds the foxes stalk. These changes affected how often certain roots, buds, seeds and insects got eaten, which altered the balance of local plant communities, and so on down the food chain all the way to fungi and microbes. All this was through the cascading effects of reintroducing just one species.
However in most of the Eastern US the top predator is the Coyote which only occasionally preys on adult deer and as a result the ecosystem of the Eastern US is out of whack. White-Tailed Deer are heavily overpopulated and are making impossible for the forests to recover, this in turn is affecting countless other species who depend on the diverse forest habitat for survival. But there is a solution, and over 150 years ago that solution resided here, the Cougar. However due to a unjustified slaughter they no longer reside west of the Mississippi River, except for a struggling population in Florida. These majestic cats were the top predator here for thousands of years and were instrumental in keeping the deer in check and now with the successful reintroduction of Elk to the Eastern US the ecosystem is likely to deteriorate even more. So now is the time to create another momentous occasion by reintroducing the top predator of the Eastern US, and now that genetics have shown there is only one subspecies of Puma Concolor in North America, there is an ever present need to return them to their former haunts.
My proposal is quite simple, we should start by identifying suitable habitat in National and State parks across the Eastern US. Then capture and radio collar Cougars in the Western US and finally in a controlled project reintroduce those Cougars to suitable parks. Livestock compensation should also be implemented. Once their numbers have recovered to a significant degree, we can allowed controlled hunting to take place. The chance to hunt the animal will encourage local hunters to help in protecting the Cougar while game tags will increase state revenue. Not to mention the huge tourist boom that will follow reintroduction.
This is something that must be done, our ecosystem is out of balance and can never recover without its keystone predator. We as a nation must show the rest of world we are willing to preserve are ecosystems and our natural heritage. India's citizens, despite huge overpopulation, have preserved their many species, including the legendary Tiger, and now as I type this, India government is in the midst of reintroducing their one missing cat, the Cheetah. Now is the time, if we don't we'll miss out on our chance to show the rest of world, that were just as willing to preserve and help our wildlife recover. We need to do this, for the ecosystem, for the people, and most of all for our most elusive species, the Cougar.
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