Dr. Ronald Sarno, associate professor of biology, is an investigator on a project looking at cougar attacks on sheep on private ranches adjacent to Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile. Dr. Sarno is working in partnership with Dr. Melissa Grigione of Pace University and and Dr. Mark Elbroch of Panthera, an organization dedicated to wild cat conservation efforts around the globe. The conflict between the ranchers and the cougars is more than a century old. Ranchers report annual losses of 36 percent of sheep to puma predation (approx. $2.8 million/year), and in outrage over the lack of governmental intervention, have relentlessly hunted wild cats in and around the Park for years.
The goals of this research are to quantify actual cougar predation on domestic sheep, and determine whether individual cougars or all cougars are preying on domestic sheep. This will help create a comprehensive conservation plan to aid local ranchers, support the Chilean government, and implement real protection for local cougars. Another goal is to provide community education on improved animal husbandry and on the ecological importance of cougars in natural systems.
Top photo – Dr. Sarno (right) with Drs. Grigone and Elbroch.