The Panther Symposium
On October 10th, in the Panther Den of Ferrum College, four distinguished scientist and writers gathered to discuss The Panther Symposium. Featured were Chris, Bolgiano, writer and Environmental Activist. Dr. Marcella Kelly, Associate Professor, department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech. Dr. Bill McShea, Research Scientist, Smithsonian Zoological Park. Dr. Jim Parkhust, Associate Professor , Department Fish and Wildlife, Conservation , at Virginia Tech. Dr. Todd S. Fredericksen, Associate Professor of Forestry and Wildlife welcomed everyone and introduced the speakers.
Public lands offer the best opportunity to preserver our environment for our wildlife to exist. We have some wonderful preserves in Virginia and West Virginia. The Wilderness Act has been enforced in 24 areas. When cougars are trapped or caught on camera, out of 1000 photos, you might get one picture. We do have predators on the move which can bring benefits and threats. We have had sightings of cougar but usually it is one at a time and it could be a young male. They can move up to 30 - 40 miles a day. One such animal was traced with DNA back to South Dakota.
What would the impact be if a cougar population came back to native Virginia? They weigh about 100 pounds and are fast and are predators of deer and bobcat. It would impact livestock, hunters and our ecosystem.
Very few attacks have been reported since the late 1800s although there have been a few. Today joggers, bikers and runners need to be aware that now bear can be attacked to fast movers. We will have to wait to see the impact on cougars if they return to the eastern United States and to Viriginia. So far this has not been verified by by scientist doing studies with trappings using photography and other signs of inhabitants such as tracks and other signs of these awesome animals, creating a mix of fact and folklore. We will have to be on the watch for future.