Cougars, Puma concolor, in Ontario: Additional Evidence
Keywords:Cougar, Puma, Mountain Lion, Puma concolor, scats, hair, mtDNA analysis, hair-snares, Ontario
AbstractRecent evidence suggests that the Cougar (Puma concolor) has returned to New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba, and Ontario. An abundance of sightings have been reported for many decades throughout south-central Ontario, but genetic confirmation has been confounded by a lack of carcasses or DNA. In this paper, we identify (1) genetic evidence of a single Cougar in the wild of Ontario, (2) a gene (cytochrome b) and methodology to distinguish the Cougar from other mammals in Ontario using scats, hair follicles, and soft and hard tissue, and (3) a gene that can distinguish individual Cougars from each other and would distinguish populations of subspecies if they exist in Ontario. Potential Cougar scats and other tissue samples were collected from across Ontario, and hair snares baited with catnip and carnivore lure were placed in locations where Cougar sightings were frequent, near Sudbury, Ontario. We analyzed samples for mtDNA, and one scat sample from the Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area, Port Colborne, Ontario, was positive for Cougar. Evidence from archeological data and Cougar sightings suggests that the historical range of Cougars extended in Ontario from the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence Ecotone south, primarily associated with the Eastern Deciduous Forest Biome and the primary prey of the Cougar, the White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and the North American Elk (Cervus elaphus). The data suggest that Cougar distribution has moved north in recent times due to clear-cutting, along with their primary prey. Further studies of Cougar presence in the province are warranted.
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