Funded! This project was successfully funded on August 1, 2011.

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A photographic stake-out of the backcountry of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in search of the area's most elusive predators.

About the Mountain Lion

     The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently removed the Eastern Cougar (puma concolor), also known as the Mountain Lion, from the endangered species list classifying the cat officially "extinct". After conducting a recent survey of approximately 600 scientists and wildlife service rangers in 21 eastern United States, the Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that the eastern sub-species of the Mountain Lion (puma concolor) no longer exists. We believe they do! The Mountain Lion is the largest of the American cats. With a range from the Yukon territory of Canada to the southernmost region of the Andes in South America, the Mountain Lion has the most expansive habitat of any large mammal in the Western Hemisphere. However, there has been very little concrete evidence of the large cats living very far east of their current range. Stories of Mountain Lion sightings are common in the American states east of the Mississippi River, but such sightings are almost always unverified due to lack of real photographic proof. Nowhere in America are the facts about the Mountain Lion's range more speculative than in the eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina region known as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With over 9 million visitors each year, the GSMNP is the most visited national park in all of the United States. It is no surprise that many reports are made of Mountain Lion sightings in the park. The Mountain Lions (and Red Wolves) were once common the area into the late 1800s with the last 100% proven instance of a mountain lion living in the region was in the winter of 1920. Tom Sparks, a resident of what is now the national park, was attacked by a Mountain Lion (also known as a Panther, Cougar, or Puma) and the cat was later killed. According to Don Linzey, author of Mammals of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there were 43 reported sightings of the cats between 1908 and 1976. Sightings have become increasingly more common since the increase in tourism to the park over the last 30 years since the data was taken. Sightings of large cats now average 7 per year in the GSMNP.

Why Do It:

     The purpose of this project is to once and for all retrieve photographic evidence of large predatory cats in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We hope to ultimately prove that these mammals still roam the land of the United States east of the Mississippi River...and get them back on the Endangered Species list. Another reason we want to do this project is to create an amazing set of photos. This project will allow us to finally write and illustrate a full-color book featuring some of the most elusive animals in the area.

How Will We Do It:

    Photographer Isaac Cogdill and adventurer Rob Watson will document a 7 day stake-out of the backcountry of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in search of the Mountain Lions that are now classified as extinct. As the project is carried out, Isaac and Rob will stay at a single-tent backcountry camp site for seven days supplied with all the gear needed to record and document the many species of large mammals and other rare and exotic plants and animals of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The goal is to return with evidence of these large cats as well as many photographs of the main prey of the Mountain Lions, the White-tailed Deer and daily activities of all animals of the park from Black Bears and Bobcats to Coyotes, Owls, and Falcons. The entire collection of observations, field notes, information of various species encountered, and photographs from the excursion will be compiled into a full-color, bounded, softcover book. In addition to the books, limited edition prints of the projects photos will be made solely for contributors.

What Needs Funded:

     Nearly everything needed to complete this project is at hand: Tent, sleeping bags, ropes, rain gear, photo gear, remote cameras, audio recorder, laptops, maps, GPS, first-aid, outdoor clothing, packs, etc. Funding for this project will be used to rent a super telephoto lens and an extra battery that will accompany existing photographic equipment, a solar charger to power our small netbook computer and charge batteries for headlamps and cameras. Funds will also be used to offset transportation costs and for miscellaneous items such as casting materials as well as the production of prints and books. ANY EXTRA FUNDING over the goal amount will go to the purchase of additional books that will be donated to local school libraries.

What If We Return Without Proof:

    The blog and full-color book will contain many photos and textual observations taken during the week long project as well as descriptions of the many species photographed during our stay. The success of this project will educate many people about the Mountain Lion and give a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes lives of some of the many animals that allure visitors to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and will inspire us to continue searching for the last remnants of the Eastern Mountain Lion.

Video Music: Re-Entry by Lee Rosevere and This Old Town by Isaac Graham
Two Cougar Photos by David Tyrer flickr.com/​photos/​8321586@N07/​

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Funding period

- (60 days)