Charney asks if Northeast is ready for predators to return?
“The eastern border of the range of mountain lions is moving progressively more and more east, and it’s only a matter of time until it reaches all the way to the East Coast,” said Noah Charney, a wildlife ecologist and animal tracking expert who has worked with the state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species program for the past seven years. “I sort of suspect that all of a sudden one day we’re going to know there are mountain lions here. There’s going to be no question. And it might happen really fast. It might be a family moves in, they start breeding, and within a few years, there’s a whole lot of them.”
Learning to coexist once again with long-vanished wildlife isn’t a new issue in New England. In recent years, Massachusetts has seen an explosion in the populations of beavers, turkeys, deer, and bears, creating a host of problems: beaver dams flooding neighborhoods, turkeys chasing pedestrians, deer scampering across highways in the night. But the return of mountain lions—animals known to kill pets, livestock, and, on rare occasions, even humans—is something altogether different, an event that would surely change the way we walk through the woods and play in our yards, if nothing else.
State wildlife officials say they have policies in place in handle this eventuality. But culturally, given the recent uproar in Winchester, it’s clear we’re not entirely prepared to live once again with predators, ones our ancestors wanted to kill so badly they paid people to haul in their carcasses and cheered when they died out altogether. “Are we going to be happy about having brought them back? I don’t know,” Charney admitted. “It’s easy to love nature when it’s not scary or dangerous.”