The Planet

Scientists Want To Release Cougars Into The Suburbs… For Our Safety 

by Kate Ryan

October 30, 2017
Credit: GoodFon/moonlight13

For those who live in woodsy areas, it probably won’t come as a surprise to hear that deer are stealthy killers. When you add up all the car accidents caused by deer, the number hovers around 1 million with more than 200 people dying each year at the hands of these sweet, angelic creatures, ATTN reports.

According to a study published in Conservation Letters, the best solution for minimizing these car crashes is to reduce the deer population as a whole. And to do that, scientists are thinking cougars might be best candidates for the job.

Laura R. Prugh, a wildlife scientist and co-author of the study, told ATTN, "Wolves would do the trick just as well, but cougars are able to live near people with fewer conflicts, as they have always done in suburban areas near Los Angeles, the San Francisco bay area, Seattle, and other major metro areas out West.”

Historically, cougars naturally prowled eastern states for centuries until humans drove them out in the early 1900s. Introducing cougars back into East Coast suburbs might sound disturbing to some, but the data shows, where safety is concerned, cougars are our best bet. The study’s research team discovered that an influx of cougars could prevent 155 deaths and 21,400 injuries each year. The researchers also report Americans could save roughly $2.1 billion in accident-related costs in as little as three decades.

And before you rush to load your rifle with the delusion of fixing the problem yourself, hear what Prugh has to say about taking matters into your own hands:

Without large carnivores like cougars or wolves to keep their populations in check, and with a bonanza of food created by agriculture and landscaping, deer populations have exploded in the eastern U.S. Efforts to reduce deer by hunters, government-sponsored culls, sterilization, and sharp-shooting operations haven't done the job. Out west, wolves and cougars help to keep deer numbers relatively low.

Still scared a big cat might hunt you down for Sunday dinner? Feel better knowing that cougars have killed a mere 21 North Americans in the last 110 years, according to the study. That’s fewer than the number of people who die from rogue champagne corks every year. Not to mention “they're far more scared of us than we are of them,” says Prugh.

The same can’t be said for champagne corks. 

Update: This article originally appeared on ​July 31, 2016.

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Scientists Want To Release Cougars Into The Suburbs… For Our Safety