Some days, it seemed that about all anybody around here did any more was argue over wolves.On one of those days, a biologist working for Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks looked out his office window to find the street lined with outraged, placard-waving big game hunters convinced that wolves were going to eat up all the state’s elk and deer. It was just a casual chat, but it changed my view of the balance of wild lives in the landscapes around us when he told me, “Hardly anyone realizes that there are two or even three times as many cougars as wolves out in those woods and mountainsides. Yet here we are dealing with outbreaks of near-hysteria over wolves while we don’t hear much at all from the general public about cougars. Mainly because the big cats are so good at not being seen.”Also known as the mountain lion or puma, the cougar is a stalk-and-ambush predator―a spring-loaded embodiment of stealth.He did his undergraduate work at San Diego State and Florida State Universities and his graduate studies at Montana State University in Bozeman.Jim is an award-winning, professionally certified wildlife biologist and has been working for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks for 25 years.
Puma concolor being the creature you don’t know is there treading whisper-soft in the shadows, the resurgence of this major predator through the late twentieth century never got much attention, but it stands as one of the most remarkable wildlife comebacks in US history. Because adult cougars are fiercely territorial, young animals―especially males―approaching sexual maturity are forced out of fully occupied ranges.
He was a graduate student tracking cougars across the windy slopes of the Rocky Mountain Front with the help of radio collars.
Although his career as a wildlife biologist led him to work with a variety of different animals, he rarely passed up any opportunity to go off chasing ghosts.
Jim and his wife Melora live and work in Montana’s beautiful Flathead Valley just west of Glacier National Park.
Foreword During the 1980s, wolves trotted south from Canada into neighboring Glacier National Park in Montana and became the first to survive in the US West for half a century. By the early 2000s, offshoots roamed much of the northwestern corner of the state.