Wild Creatures: Cougar in Lake Forest Park

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Detail of photo by Janne Kaje, Lake Forest Park, 11/14/22
See previous story
By Josh Rosenau

Cougars are known for being great travelers. 

Typically, an adult female has a home range of about 60-100 square miles that she occupies on her own (with cubs), and a male’s home range will overlap those of 4-5 females. 

Fall is a time when it’s common to see younger cougars (18 months to 2 years old) disperse from their mom’s range and look for their own. 

Males typically travel much longer distances; one was recorded having traveled 2500 miles over the course of 2 years, from South Dakota to Connecticut! It’s hard to know for sure about this one without a closer look, but I’d guess that’s what we’re seeing here. It’s certainly possible that it was a more established older individual that was forced out of its home range by development or other factors. That’s far less common, though.

Typically, those younger dispersing males are just moving through, and are gone after a few days. They need to find an area with enough room (and not too many people, cars, roads, noisy dogs, etc.), plenty of deer, mating opportunities, and also no resident male to chase them away. That can be hard to find, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he stays for a little while if this seems like a place where he can feed on a deer and rest for a few days before traveling on, but I’d be shocked if it decided to stay here for good. 

Research by the state department of fish and wildlife here (and confirmed by research in other states) has shown that cougars try to avoid areas with people, even woodsy suburban areas like LFP. A wooded, wild creek greenway can work as a corridor for them to travel through, but is unlikely to offer enough room and seclusion for this cougar to make it a permanent home.

I’m not aware of any established cougars until you get out to areas like Maltby or other much less developed areas, so dispersal as far as our town would be rare. But because they are so good at dispersing, they can find themselves in odd places. 

One showed up in Discovery Park a few years back, and in LA, one has even crossed freeways and made Griffith Park its home! Their adaptability is a big reason why they managed to survive the forces that wiped out our wolf and grizzly bear populations historically. 

I’ve only been in LFP for a few years, and don’t recall any reported here in that time, but I would be surprised if one of these dispersing males hadn’t passed through every few years. Odds are, most of them went unnoticed, especially in the days before cell phones, doorbell cameras, and motion-activated trail cameras.

Coyotes and cougars have a tricky relationship. Cougars will kill and eat coyotes, but they far prefer to go after deer. Coyotes will sometimes drive cougars off of a deer carcass, stealing the cougar’s food. 

Coyotes or bobcats have been known to kill young cougars, but at this one’s size, that’s unlikely. Any of the three might try to chase the others away from food, but direct conflict beyond that would be rare for adults. We have a lot of deer, rabbits, raccoons, and other wildlife that are easier for those species to pursue, and which they evolved to focus on. 

For better or worse, I doubt this cougar would reduce anyone’s backyard coyote sightings!

Lake Forest Park resident Josh Rosenau is a Conservation Advocate, Region 1 for the Mountain Lion Foundation mountainlion.org
916-442-2666 ext. 107
Twitter: @MtnLionFnd
FB: MountainLionFoundation
IG: mountainlionfoundation


Post a Comment

We encourage the thoughtful sharing of information and ideas. We expect comments to be civil and respectful, with no personal attacks or offensive language. We reserve the right to delete any comment.

Facebook: Shoreline Area News
Twitter: @ShorelineArea
Daily Email edition (don't forget to respond to the Follow.it email)

  © Blogger template The Professional Template II by Ourblogtemplates.com 2009

Back to TOP