MADISON, Wis., Oct. 17 (UPI) — State biologists in Missouri, Wisconsin and other Midwest states say they are beset annually with reports of cougars in areas where there are none.
In some cases, house cats are mistaken at a distance for cougars, also called mountain lions, said Jeff Beringer, a state biologist who heads the eight-member Missouri Mountain Lion Response Team.
The team is needed to handle about 15 investigations it opens annually after calls from residents who say they’ve seen a cougar, Beringer said, adding Missouri doesn’t have any cougars.
While an estimated 30,000 cougars live west of the Rocky Mountains, most of the Midwest has been cougar-free since about 1910, when deforestation and hunting cleared the region of the big cats, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
Rumors of cougars in the Midwest often are fueled by Internet conspiracy theories accusing state officials of cougar coverups, the newspaper said.
“Maybe we really want to believe there are cougars,” said Eric Anderson, a Wisconsin biologist who regularly gives talks explaining there are few, if any, mountain lions in Wisconsin.
Copyright 2009 by United Press International