Cougar Habitat

Although the cougar is highly adaptable to different habitats from deserts and swamps to mountains and prairies, and although in some areas they now live in close proximity with humans, most experts agree that the cougar will not completely adapt to living in human populated areas if secluded areas and food supply diminish.Cougars are dominant but nervous predators that rely on selected habitats for their solitary lifestyle. They are not sociable even with their own kind except for mating season.Their natural instinct is to seek solitude as much as possible.

"Cougar are not real fussy about type of habitat but they need lots of it, and well connected"(Beier 1994). Corridors are most important for the safe passing of cougars and other wildlife from one area to another. A forested river ravine allowing coverage and passage from one area to another is an ideal corridor, but corridors can also be a bush-lined fenceline, a wildlife tunnel under a highway, and so on. A corridor brings in new genes for breeding, enlarges their hunting area, and brings better protection to the public by encouraging the cougar to use such corridors, away from human occupation.

Experts agree that suitable land for cougars in Manitoba is coniferous and coniferous-deciduous mixed forest with a rugged topography of hills, ravines, etc. to give greater success to the animal's hunting skills. Cougar are more successful in killing large unglates when using a topography of cliffs and ravines. Flat terrain makes it more difficult for them to ambush their prey easily.

In Manitoba, the cougar can be found from the boreal forest to the grasslands, concentrating in areas where prey is abundant(Wrigley and Nero 1982). Appropriate habitat is necessary, not only for hunting, but for protection from the environmental stresses and enemies, and for the successful raising of kittens.

Coniferous forest covers nearly one-third(164,000 sq.km.) of Manitoba"(Boreal Forest Gallery",2002-2004,The Manitoba Museum, found in: www.manitobamuseum.ca/mu_boreal.html). With adequate coniferous and mixed forest and a variety of terrain, the cougar has been able to take up residence in Manitoba. The two specimens killed in 2004 were from the same area near the Riding Mountain National Park. Their good body condition showed that they had ample prey supply.

With ample good habitat and prey in Manitoba, one may wonder why there is not a bigger population of cougar.  Some experts believe some of Manitoba's extremely cold winters with deep snow depth and crusting may make survival especially difficult for young cougars. Long Manitoba winters(up to 6 months of snow-cover some years) stress cougars for a longer period of time than those living in warmer climates. The Manitoba sub adult shot in 1973 had most of the hair frozen and pulled off on the hips from laying in the snow, resulting in a huge loss of body temperature.

Human intervention and disturbance is thought to be another large factor in limiting cougar population in Manitoba, along with a possible low gene supply for reproduction. Protecting corridors is essential for bringing in new genes.Many organizations help protect the habitat for Manitoba's wildlife and encourage the protection of wildlife corridors.
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