Cougars Change Behavior Around Humans
A California study has wide reaching implications for mountain lion management. A California study has wide reaching implications for mountain lion management. The research team collared 20 mountain lions with GPS collars to study their movements in a semi-isolated mountain range in Central California. Using data collected from kill sites, day beds, den sites, and other movement data, the team looked at resource and habitat selection. The study shows that mountain lions actively avoid human developments including buildings, roads, and even hiking trails when breeding and denning. The study is published in a highly respected and trusted journal, PLOSone, and can be read here.
The analytics are sound. These researchers used resource selection functions and robust statistical analysis in R to determine habitat usage and animal movement. We would have liked to see a larger sample size of mountain lions for a stronger result.
The researchers report that males and females were more likely to engage in mating-related behaviors far away from sources of human influence. They also found females were particularly prone to have dens as far from human influence.
Although California has no hunting pressure as mountain lions are a protected species, this study has implications for other populations undergoing similar human influences. If increased development negatively influences mountain lion reproduction, we might expect to see a decline in population size around heavily developing areas.