CLE ELUM– Wildlife scientists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and a world-renowned carnivore research institute plan to team up with Cle Elum schoolchildren on a high-tech study tracking cougars in this mountain community to determine how they react to expanding human development.
The Cougars and Teaching effort, dubbed Project CAT, is expected to get underway late this fall when WDFW field scientists place satellite telemetry collars on up to 30 cougars in the Cle Elum area. The project is featured on the WDFW's new online Fish and Wildlife Science Magazine on the Internet.
Acting as consultants to the project will be scientists from the Montana-based Hornocker Wildlife Institute, which has conducted worldwide carnivore research.
If full funding is secured, cougar movements would be followed for up to five years in Cle Elum and two other areas of the state where human development is encroaching into wildlife habitat.
The Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) collars to be used in the project allow wildlife biologists to collect more frequent and accurate locations of cougar movement than the radio telemetry collars traditionally used for monitoring animals in the wild.
"Project CAT should greatly add to our knowledge and understanding of cougar behavior and could ultimately improve conservation and community planning efforts," said WDFW Director Jeff Koenings, PhD. "The project also offers a unique opportunity to bring real-life science into schoolrooms."
While wildlife biologists monitor cougar movements via satellite-relayed signals that indicate the animals' location around the clock, students from kindergarten through high school would be involved in related science activities ranging from animal track identification to mapping to studying the association of species and habitats.