Wild Lions In The US?

By on August 19, 2005

Of all the hair-brained ideas… According to an article on National Geographic News, a group of scientists wants to someday turn loose wild lions, cheetahs and elephants in the heart of the Great Plains!

Their goal is to restore giant wild mammals to North America, like those that roamed the continent during the Ice Age — mammoths, saber-toothed cats, and the extinct American cheetah, among others.

Since those animals have long been extinct, the scientists propose repopulating the U.S. with the creatures’ closest living relatives—such as lions, cheetahs, elephants, and camels.

Oh wouldn’t that be great. Wild lions & cheetahs stalking prey through South Dakota cornfields. Do these jokers think that the Great Plains is devoid of human inhabitants, or might be in the not-so-distant future?

The trouble as I see it with this idea is that predators are by nature opportunistic, and wouldn’t hesitate to grab the easiest something it can for lunch. Wouldn’t it be logical to conclude that if a large carnivore like that had a choice between running down a deer or antelope or a 900lb heifer, the cow would lose every time? Or perhaps a herd of kindergardeners at recess in a rural schoolyard? It wouldn’t take much before there would be a lion skin rug in front of the hearths at every other Farmer Johnson’s place. The 2nd Amendment is exercised quite freely in these parts.

The scientist that’s interviewed says that this is a very long term goal, and part of the point in all this is to “restore those lost interactions between” predators that have been extinct for 13,000 years and prey — like the Pronghorn Antelope — that survived. Seems to me that if the large predators died off from this part of the world we ought to just leave things that way.



  1. For whatever it’s worth (not much :-) the phrase is “Hare-brained”, as in about as wise as your average hare. Makes particular sense in this context…

  2. An important element in this is that these are not species that died out because of a particular failure to adapt, they were hunted to extinction by humans (13,000 years ago is approximately how long ago people are believed to have arrived in the Americas).

    The proposal originally appeared in Nature.

  3. the phrase is “Hare-brained”…

    Thanks for setting me straight. I’ve seen both, but have always used “hair-” and hadn’t given it much thought. According to some, I’m in good company!

    … these are not species that died out because of a particular failure to adapt, they were hunted to extinction by humans…

    We’re talking 13,000 years ago; hunting methods used by those guys weren’t terribly sophisticated. If they were indeed hunted to extinction by humans, wouldn’t that in itself be a failure to adapt to the presence of a new predator? Also, if it was humans that are at fault for their extinction, why did the African variants of these animals not meet the same fate, especially since Africa supposedly had human populations much, much earlier?

  4. It is difficult to imagine the Environmental Impact statement that would accompany this one. Of course, that statement could be two pages thick if you make the right political contributions.

  5. i am researching for school about lions adaptation and lion digestive system if you can help me its ok

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