Cougar Researchers

Toni K Ruth

Wildlife Research Scientist

Toni K. Ruth is a Wildlife Research Scientist with the Selway Institute established and directed by Dr. Maurice Hornocker. As a young girl, Toni grew up in the outdoors, frequently going on family camping and fishing trips and often spent time reading while perched in the top of an oak tree. Her high school hopes of becoming a marine
biologist evolved into a Bachelor’s of Science degree in wildlife from the School of Forest and Resource Conservation at the University of Florida. Soon after her experience on the Panther Project, Toni began research investigating cougar behavior in and near human recreational development in Big Bend National Park. This research resulted in a
Master’s degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University and provided an alternative management plan for cougars in Big Bend National Park. Between 1998 and
2006, she was the project leader researching the effects of wolf reestablishment on the cougar population in Yellowstone National Park.

Since then, she has studied cougar populations in Texas, New Mexico, Montana, and Idaho. She previously worked with the Hornocker Wildlife Institute for 11 years and the Wildlife Conservation Society for 5 years. Toni oversees two graduate student projects and served on the steering committee for the 9th Mountain Lion Workshop in May 2008. She also serves as Secretary of the Board for the non-profit Salmon Valley Stewardship, a group that works to promote a healthy environment and a sustain-able economy in Lemhi County, Idaho.
Toni is currently working on analyzing data, writing manuscripts, and writing a book on cougar ecology and interactions with other carnivores in the Northern Yellowstone Ecosystem. She hopes to continue working on integrated multispecies approaches to provide sound scientific research on which to base conservation decisions in human dominated landscapes, as well as to make educational contributions at a local and community level. Toni feels “connected to the communities I have lived in through my knowledge of cougars and what they have taught me. Interestingly, my life has mirrored my initial fascination at the variety of habitats cougars are adapted to. In this regard I have been fortunate to study them in these various environs. My biggest thrills still come from finding a cougar track in the snow, desert sand, or mud and knowing that a cougar could be watching me nearby!”

Rick Hopkins

Author and Cougar Field Researcher

Rick has spent 25 years in the field researching cougars and has testified before Game and Fish Commissions in 5 different states.

Rick Hopkins is Co-Owner of Live Oak Associates, an ecological consulting firm based in San Jose, CA. Rick has a Ph.D in Wildlands Resource Science from University of California at Berkeley, an M.A. in Biology and a B.A. in Wildlife Zoology from San Jose State University in San Jose, CA. His dissertation focused on cougars, more specifically, the Ecology of the Cougar in the Diablo Range. Rick has spent 25 years in the field researching cougars and has testified before Game and Fish Commissions in 5 different states.
He is the author or co-author of many publications including The Density and Home Range Characteristics of Mountain Lions in the Diablo Range of California, Monitoring Population Trends of Large Carnivores using Track Transects and Current Techniques Used in the Research of Pumas. As an ecologist, Rick has specialized in population ecology, predator ecology, wildlife/habitat relationships, conservation biology, and in developing conservation strategies for many threatened and endangered species throughout California.

Gary Koehler

Wildlife Research Scientist

Gary Koehler is Principle Investigator on Project CAT and has been employed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as Wildlife Research Scientist since 1994. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Idaho and has spent the past 30 years conducting research on a variety of carnivores: including pine marten, wolverine, bobcat, lynx, cougars and American black bears in North America, to lions in Africa and tigers in China and India. He has published findings of these studies in scientific journals as well as in the popular press.

Research Biologist
Prior to returning to his native Washington state, he spent 3 years in Kenya, where he taught and helped develop a wildlife management program at one of that country's leading universities. He has taken these experience and knowledge from his work and travels around the world to share with the students and community as part of Project CAT. He is presently principle investigator of cougar research in the Blue Mountains of SE Washington and lynx research in the northern Cascades of Washington.

"Kids are the best ambassadors for the cougar, and Project CAT has demonstrated that."