Cougar Catchers

A growing number of mountain lion attacks spawns the first feline-focused SWAT team.

Outdoor Life Online Editor

In the last five years, the Midwest has had 24 confirmed cases of cougars being shot, hit by cars, photographed or videotaped. "I call it the 'unsettling' of the Midwest," says Jay Tischendorf, a wildlife veterinarian and founder of the American Ecological Research Institute (AERIE), based in Great Falls, Mont.

Cougars are expanding their range eastward, and that puts them on a collision course with humans. In most of these instances, the cougar ends up dead. That's why Tischendorf and AERIE have assembled an on-call, rapid-response team of experts in puma tracking, snaring and live-trapping.

Since animal-control officers and wildlife agencies east of the Rockies tend to be inexperienced in dealing with problem cougars, Tischendorf says, AERIE can provide the discreet, professional services of a team that is able to safely catch big cats, particularly in high-density areas. The team is quick to deploy, arriving where needed within 12 to 24 hours. The cost: $1,000 to $2,000 per day, plus expenses. "Our motto is simple," says Tischendorf. "We're like a puma-oriented Paladin: Have hounds. Have traps. Will travel."