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Swimming Cougars Take to the Sea

We have an incredible story that will blow your mind. Cougars, also known as mountain lions or pumas, are fascinating animals that are found throughout North and South America. They are solitary and elusive creatures, and it can be difficult to study their behavior in the wild. However, recent research has shed new light on the amazing adaptability of these big cats. Did you know that cougars can swim for miles in the ocean? Yes, you read that right! Let’s dive into this amazing discovery.

Photo Credit: Tim Melling

The Study

The Pacific Northwest is known for its diverse wildlife, including salmon, orcas, and bald eagles. However, while cougars have always been known to be a part of this ecosystem, it wasn’t until recently that researchers discovered they aren’t afraid to take on the sea.

Panthera, a wild cat conservation organization, tracked a mother cougar and her son with GPS collars to see how far they could travel. The son, known as M161, amazed scientists by swimming 1.1 km (.68 miles) from the eastern edge of the Peninsula to Squaxin Island in Puget Sound.

Cougars on the Move

This swim shattered the previous belief that large bodies of water were a barrier to cougar movement. Instead, researchers now estimate that cougars could access at least 3,808 of the Salish Sea’s 6,153 islands through “island hopping.”

But wait, there’s more! The presence of cougars on 18 of these islands was confirmed, and some of these required swims of up to 2 kilometers (1.24 miles). This means that cougars are even more adaptable and resourceful than we thought.

Photo Credit: Tim Melling

Why is this important?

Cougars are considered keystone species, meaning they play an important role in maintaining the balance of their ecosystems. By protecting them, we indirectly protect hundreds of other species. In fact, a recent study by Panthera found that cougars interact with almost 500 different species.

The cougars face many challenges, from habitat fragmentation to hunting. But the fact that they can swim long distances to connect with other populations is a promising sign for their future. It’s truly incredible to think that these big cats have found a new way to survive in their environment and adapt to changing conditions.

Photo Credit: Panthera

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