European Lions were present in Transcaucasia until the 10th century. The peak of its historic range covered all of the plains and foothills of eastern Transcaucasia westward almost to Tbilisi, Georgia. Northwards, its range extended through the eastern Caucasus from the Apsheron Peninsula to the mouth of the Samur River in the current Azerbaijan-Russia border, extending to Araks. From there, the boundary of its range narrowly turned east to Yerevan, with its northern boundary then extending westward to Turkey.
After the Racoon, the Mink and the Marten Dog another exotic carnivore is entering the European Wilderness: the Mountain Lion. First examples were seen and photographed by hunters this winter in Turkey, but due to the rising temperatures caused by climate change it is expected that they will rapidly expand their territory first into Eastern Europe, especially Ukraine, and from there via the Carpathians into Central Europe following the established Wolf, Golden Jackal, Lynx and Bear corridors.
The fantastic news of the return of the Mountain Lion is a great challenge and at the same time excellent opportunity to restore in the long term the equilibrium between the abundant European herbivores and just returning large carnivores.
Gudrun Pflueger, the large carnivore specialist of the European Wilderness Society and Vlado Vancura will travel to Turkey in the next weeks to try to find the first traces of this elusive but interesting animal. Gudrun was involved in several large carnivore projects in Canada and the US. We will keep you updated.