Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Study of pumas in Santa Cruz Mountains documents impact of predator/human interaction

Date:
April 18, 2013
Source:
University of California - Santa Cruz
Summary:
In the first published results of more than three years of tracking mountain lions in the Santa Cruz Mountains, researchers have documented how human development affects the predators' habits.

7F, an approximately 7-year-old mother is treed by trailing hounds so researchers can replace her collar before the batteries fail. 7F lives in the mountains above Los Gatos and has had three litters of kittens in the four years since she was first collared.
Credit: Photo by Paul Houghtaling

In the first published results of more than three years of tracking mountain lions in the Santa Cruz Mountains, UC Santa Cruz researchers document how human development affects the predators' habits.

In findings published today (April 17) in the online journal PLOS ONE, UCSC associate professor of environmental studies Chris Wilmers and colleagues with the UC Santa Cruz Puma Project describe tracking 20 lions over 6,600 square miles for three years. Researchers are trying to understand how habitat fragmentation influences the physiology, behavior, ecology, and conservation of pumas in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

"Depending on their behavior, animals respond very differently to human development," Wilmers said. Lions are "totally willing to brave rural neighborhoods, but when it comes to reproductive behavior and denning they need more seclusion."

The large predators living relatively close to a metropolitan area require a buffer from human development at least four times larger for reproductive behaviors than for other activities such as moving and feeding.

"In addition, pumas give a wider berth to types of human development that provide a more consistent source of human interface," such as neighborhoods, than they do in places where human presence is more intermittent, as with major roads or highways, the authors write.

37 lions captured

Wilmers and his team, which includes graduate students, and a dog tracking team working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, have captured 37 lions to date. Twenty-12 females and eight males-were closely followed between 2008 and 2011. Once captured and anesthetized, the lions' sex was determined, they were weighed, measured, fit with an ear tag and a collar with a GPS transmitter. The collars, developed, in part, by an interdisciplinary team at UCSC, including wildlife biologists and engineers, transmit location data every four hours.

Researchers are able to track the lions' movements and calculate locations of feeding sites, communication spots, and dens. Pumas communicate with scent markings known as "scrapes" where they scrape leaves or duff into a pile then urinate on it. Males typically make the scrapes, advertising their presence and availability. Females visit scrapes when looking for mates.

The Puma Project team set up and monitored remote cameras at 44 scrape locations and documented males and females, which confirmed GPS data from the pumas' collars.

Researchers also found 10 den sites belonging to 10 different female lions. They visited 224 "GPS clusters" where activities suggested a feeding site, and located prey remains at 115 sites.

Wilmers said the research is helping identify corridors where pumas typically travel between areas of high-quality habitat. This includes neighborhoods where females often are willing to explore for food for their fast-growing brood.

Brushes with humans

Brushes with humans have resulted in casualties when lions were struck by cars or caught raiding livestock. One male known as 16M was shown to have crossed busy Highway 17 between Scotts Valley and Los Gatos 31 times. He was hit and badly injured in November 2010 and recently shot and killed after attacking goats. A female, 18F, who may have been 16M's mate, was killed in 2011 crossing the winding highway.

Eight of the 11 pumas that died during the study were killed when caught attacking domestic livestock. Wilmers advised owners of goats or other livestock to consider keeping them in a "fully-enclosed mountain lion-proof structure."

While Wilmers advised people to proceed with caution in any known mountain lion roaming grounds he said humans need not panic about the presence of mountain lions.

The study's conservation goals are meant to help lions survive in the midst of rapidly growing human development by building awareness of lions' behavior and providing safe transit opportunities under or over major highways.

Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Nature Conservancy, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, Feliadae Conservation Fund, and UC Santa Cruz.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Santa Cruz. The original article was written by Guy Lasnier. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Christopher C. Wilmers, Yiwei Wang, Barry Nickel, Paul Houghtaling, Yasaman Shakeri, Maximilian L. Allen, Joe Kermish-Wells, Veronica Yovovich, Terrie Williams. Scale Dependent Behavioral Responses to Human Development by a Large Predator, the Puma. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (4): e60590 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060590

Cite This Page:

University of California - Santa Cruz. "Study of pumas in Santa Cruz Mountains documents impact of predator/human interaction." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 April 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418100124.htm>.
University of California - Santa Cruz. (2013, April 18). Study of pumas in Santa Cruz Mountains documents impact of predator/human interaction. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418100124.htm
University of California - Santa Cruz. "Study of pumas in Santa Cruz Mountains documents impact of predator/human interaction." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130418100124.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins