A cougar, silent and unseen in the thick understory, is emitting a beacon from its tracking collar. “She’s close, about a hundred meters to the north,” says Beth Orning, a Ph.D. student at Oregon State University. Orning has evidence that cougar No. C216 is raising a litter in this hidden ravine.
The health of any ecosystem starts with razor-like teeth and an appetite for meat. The “apex” predators — big carnivores like bears and wolves at the top of the food web — keep things in balance, OSU researchers have found in study after study in the western United States.