Once virtually extinct in the late 1800's, these cats also known as mountain lions and puma's are now believed to total between 550 to 600 in Ontario. The Ontario Puma Foundation has been studying these felines for a number of years and works in conjunction with the Ministry of Natural Resources, Environment Canada and other organizations for the purpose of protecting habitat, educating the public and learning more about how to ensure that a sustainable population of these animals is maintained. The group have designated what they call "cougar corridor," which is a band running from the Ottawa Valley west to Sault Ste Marie and as far south as the bottom of Georgian Bay. Cougar sightings have been recorded throughout this corridor including here in the Georgian Triangle. I have personally spoken to people that have either seen one of the elusive cats in the Duntroon area or have seen tracks in various locations across the Niagara Escarpment.
Part of the reason for the cougars comeback is the existence of a sustainable food source, mainly deer. According to Stuart Kenn, provincial researcher for the Ontario Puma Foundation "where you find deer, you find cougars." The significant numbers of deer both on Manitoulin Island as well as in this area would certainly support their existence and explain the sightings.
The Ministry of Natural Resources has a "report a rare species" section on their website that allows the public to input information regarding the sightings of rare and or endangerd animals and birds across the province and you are encouraged to do so.
Given that it was Earth Day earlier this week, stories such as the return of a species like the cougar are both timely and encouraging and is further evidence that the destructive impact man has had on nature can indeed be reversed.