This Week in Nature: Cougars on the Comeback Trail and Their Road Leads to the Midwest

A mountain lion, also known as a cougar, puma or panther. (Nicky Pe / Pexels)A mountain lion, also known as a cougar, puma or panther. (Nicky Pe / Pexels)

Ready or not, the cougars are coming.

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Remember the pair of mountain lions (aka cougars, aka pumas, aka panthers) that wandered into Illinois last fall? Scientists say folks east of the Mississippi should expect more of such sightings, and maybe start planning for the permanent return of the big cats.

A newly published research paper, “Determining puma habitat suitability in the Eastern USA,” says migration of the western puma population is inevitable and identifies more than a dozen areas with the habitat to support a comeback.

The Chicago region did not make the cut — “Phew,” said local deer — but the northern third of Michigan and Wisconsin look to be prime puma territory

Here’s what else caught our attention on the nature and environment beat this week:

Water, Water and More Water

Epic rainfall and flooding continues in California, but what does that mean for the state’s drought conditions? The New York Times explains why capturing and storing all that water is easier said than done, and the Los Angeles Times takes a deep dive into the other precipitation making headlines — California’s snowpack.

Meanwhile, Illinois released its updated State Water Plan this week. The 228-page report contains 147 recommendations and we’d be lying if we said we’d read them all. One item that did stand out was the recommendation to undertake a study as “a first step” in determining the feasibility/viability of wind turbines in Lake Michigan, which suggests the pair of legislators who’ve been talking about a wind farm off Chicago like it’s a foregone conclusion may have gotten ahead of themselves.

To complete our trifecta of water-related items: Thames Water — the London version of Chicago’s MWRD, if the MWRD was privately owned by a Kuwait investment group — wants to pump water out of the Thames River and replace it with treated sewage, per The Guardian. Even if you say that with a British accent, the plan still sounds like, well ... (insert waste-related term of your choosing). 


Monty and Rose may be gone, but we’re still invested in the survival of the Great Lake piping plover population. Here’s an interesting update on where some of the birds spend their winter. (Our boy Monty was a Texas bird.)  

Tweet of the Week

Daylight at the end of the tunnel.

Get Out

To celebrate Martin Luther King Day, Cook County Forest Preserves are hosting day of service events at various preserves on Jan. 16. Times and locations are posted online


Here at WTTW News, we covered Chicago’s newest cubs, an approaching comet and the latest developments in the ongoing saga to preserve Promontory Point

Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 |  [email protected]

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