« Cougar corridor », a novel on mountain lions
By Florian Rochat. (2009: in French) Paperback, 235 pages. Publisher: Le Passage. Reviewed by Dr. Lucina Hernández,Director, Rice Creek Field Station/Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, SUNY Oswego, Oswego, NY.
As a scientist with experience with terrestrial mammalian predators, including the cougar, I was curious to see how I was curious to see how the topic of mountain lions was approached in a novel. With surprise and satisfaction, I learned that Florian Rochat has addressed the important and complex topics of predation and conservation in manner understandable to the public. Admirably, he does this without putting aside scientific information. Instead, he uses it to build a masterpiece. He puts his finger on the center of the problem of conserving many species—habitat fragmentation due to urbanization and ex-urbanization. To illustrate the problem, Rochat chose one species that here, in North America, faces this problem—the cougar.
In this scientifically well documented book, Rochat explains in an easy manner the facts of cougar biology, in particular dispersion. He explains why cougars need to travel long distances and why sometimes it is possible to see a cougar close to urban areas.
The book is passionate from the first page to the end; the author keeps the reader connected to the plot. Every day while I was reading the book, I told my husband John Laundré, who is a researcher of cougars, how interesting it was and that it provides important information to the public. Even though the book is about the conflict between humans and cougars, other top predators, such as wolves and bears, also have the same conflicts with humans.
COUGAR CORRIDOR is excellent in helping people understand the dimensions of human activities as they affect the conservation of these animals. This is amply displayed when the author talks about the everyday more frequent desire of people to live close to wild and natural areas while failing to see that at the same time they are destroying and fragmenting the wilderness, destroying habitat for wildlife, and sooner or later may face close encounters with wild animals such as cougars (Page 30). The discussion of the cougar’s attack on a young man was especially poignant regarding this sensitive and often over exaggerated area of human-cougar conflicts. Usually, cougars are the ones who suffer the most in these interactions.
It is unfortunate that this country, where we are producing important scientific information about cougars, is the same country that doesn’t want to use this valuable information to protect it. This is especially true for the endangered eastern cougar and Florida panther. We in United States are facing the consequences of the new urban development that affects one species when we lose wild habitat for the benefit of a few people. The cougar symbolizes the last bastion of real wilderness. The fact that the cougars still exist in some places means that we have healthy ecosystems there, with all their parts – flora and fauna. (Page 30).
As Michael Dupuis (one of the characters in the book) states: “We should consider that wildlife and wild areas on the Earth have the right to continue wild and our society has the obligation to protect and conserve it” (Page 223). I hope that this book helps people understand the value of cougars and motivates the public to protect them. Rochat not only puts the problem on the table, he gives us the solution—conservation of natural corridors for this species and others—hence the title of the book.
I recommend this book not only for the general public but also to undergraduate and graduate students of different disciplines who can analyze conflicts concerning the conservation of a predator. I also strongly encourage the author and publisher to consider translating this excellent book into Spanish and English so that North Americans outside of Quebec can read the important message Rochat so eloquently presents.
Editor’s Note: Florian Rochat has lived in Switzerland all his life but has travelled to the US many times as a foreign correspondent and during vacations. He told me, « The idea of my novel came in 1992 with an article by Maurice Hornocker on mountain lions in The National Geographic which fascinated me. This led me to read the handful of general public books on cougars, then to interview Ken Logan in Moscow (Idaho) and Rich DeSimone (Montana) in 1999.” Rich allowed him to participate in his project in the Garnett Range of Montana during the following two years. Rochat continues, “I tracked and collared lions with him and his aides. »
Marc Gauthier, whose pheromone lures have documented the presence of a few cougars in Quebec and New Brunswick, said this in his review on Amazon.ca: “Having tracked cougars myself in this area of Montana and being closely interested in this species, I found this novel by Florian Rochat in the same time realistic, well researched and fascinating. Must be read by all those interested in environmental and conservation issues.”
This article was published on the website of the Cougar Rewilding Foundation.
Florian Rochat posted a video of his tracking of cougars in Montana on YouTube.