Letting the cat out of the bag

Notes from the North Woods

Laundre’s research disputes a 1981 study that was conducted in the Adirondacks by SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry emeritus biologist, Dr. Rainer Brocke. Dr. Brocke headed up a similar restoration effort in the 1980’s. However, study determined that the density of both paved and dirt roads in the region would combine to thwart efforts to restock cougars in the Park. Dr. Brocke explained, “I was thinking of restoring cougars to the Adirondacks in 1983. The problem is they just can’t survive the proximity of homes, cars, and roads, the noise! He continued, “It just ain’t going to happen, the road density in the region makes it unfeasible, we would have fatal conflicts. It isn’t just the roads, it is the access they provide and the danger of vehicles and hunters.”

Brocke has solid, hands-on experience with such restoration efforts. He was responsible for similar efforts to reintroduce lynx to the region over two decades ago.

Researchers conducting similar studies of road density to determine a threshold for the feasibility of restoring wolves in Minnesota discovered a density of .96 miles of road per square mile of land were the absolute minimum standard. According to GIS data, the density of paved roads in the Adirondacks currently falls within this range. However, the data does not include many additional miles of private roads, dirt roads and seasonal use, or logging roads.

Brocke explained that Dr. Laundre’s study is based on western lands, which he believes are not comparable to eastern standards.

“You must understand the difference between eastern and western cougars is quite pronounced” Dr. Brocke revealed, “In the west, the animals can range on large blocks of land, which separate the towns. In the east, we have a fine grained landscape, with a density of roads. The Adirondacks are not a real wilderness; you can’t fly over it for five minutes and not see roads, and cars and groups of people. The western part of this country is just so much bigger.”

Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at brookside18@adelphia.net.

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