Cats are by no means as afraid of water as they are said to be: tigers in the South Asian Sundarbans or jaguars in the Pantanal actively go into the water to hunt or to colonize new territories. The pumas (Puma concolor) of North and South America, on the other hand, were not previously considered a water-loving species. However, this chapter probably needs to be rewritten, at least in part, as observations by Mark Elbroch from the nature conservation organization »Panthera« and his team show. In “Northwestern Naturalist,” they describe how cougars actually climb into the frigid Pacific Ocean to reach offshore islands.
As part of the Olympic Cougar Project, the working group collected data on how and where cougars move in the Olympic Peninsula area between Washington State and British Columbia, Canada. Large parts of the peninsula are part of nature reserves, but adjacent towns and the sea were considered barriers for the big cats.
At least the latter has to be revised: In July 2020, the young male “Nolan”, equipped with a transmitter, swam from the east coast of the Olympic Peninsula to the offshore Squaxin Island. Although the distance was only 1.1 kilometers, it was the first evidence that cougars can also cover longer distances in the sea. The researchers then looked for further confirmed evidence of cougars on islands in the local Salish Sea – and found evidence on four additional islands, some more than two kilometers from the nearest land.