Cougars may help prevent road accidents

Research suggests that reintroducing cougars could help to keep drivers safer in the US by reducing the amount of traffic collisions with deer.

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Cougars may help prevent road accidents
The cougar's range in North America has been greatly reduced, and the cats have been declared extinct in Florida. ©IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock

 

Contrary to popular belief, the most dangerous mammals in North America are not bears, wolves or big cats.

Every year, in the USA alone, 200 people die in vehicle collisions with deer. And accident rates are increasing, primarily due to burgeoning deer numbers, which is in turn partly due to declines in natural predators.

“I think everyone on the East Coast has either hit a deer or knows somebody who’s hit a deer, so it’s a very real problem for people,” said biologist Laura Prugh of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Prugh’s research suggests that casualties could be reduced by boosting cougar numbers.

Her calculations show that, over a six-year lifespan, a cougar kills 259 deer and prevents eight accidents.

Re-establishing cougars in the Eastern USA could prevent 155 fatalities in just 30 years.

“Carnivores are so controversial and there’s a lot of fear, anxiety and resistance when they are reintroduced or recolonise an area. We are hoping that showing people how their lives could really benefit in a tangible way from having large carnivores around could help people become more accepting of living with them.”

Source: Conservation Letters.

Read more wildlife news stories in BBC Wildlife Magazine

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