Cougar Biology • Preface: Sources/Literature • I. Taxonomy and Nomenclature • II. Historic Record to Present • III. Physical Traits: Growth Rates and Tracks • IV. Reproduction • V. Population and Metapopulation Dynamics • VI. Predation • VII. Habitat Models • VIII. Remote Camera Surveys
Cougar Biology • Preface: Literature Sources • Shaw, H. G. 1990. Mountain Lion Field Guide. Special Report No. 9, Arizona Game and Fish Department. • Logan, K. A. and L. L. Sweanor, 2000. Puma in Ecology and Management of Large Mammals in North America. Prentice-Hall, Inc. • Logan, K. A. and L. L. Sweanor. 2001. Desert Puma: Evolutionary Ecology of an Enduring Carnivore. Island Press, Washington, D. C. • Cougar Management Guidelines Working Group. 2005. Cougar Management Guidelines. WildFutures, Bainbridge Island, WA.
Cougar Biology • Preface: Literature Sources • http://www.mountainlion.net/ • Shaw, H.G. 1971. Ecology of the Mountain Lion in Arizona. Proj. No. W-78-R-15, Wk. Pl. 2, Job 13. Progress Rep., Arizona Game and Fish Dept., 7pp. • SUMMARY • Fifty-four dog-hunting days and 25 trapping days were spent in the vicinity of the Sycamore Canyon study area. No lions were caught. Tracks and other sign indicated that as many as four lions were using the area. The only fresh lion kill found in the study area was a coyote. A freshly-killed yearling cow elk was found outside of the study area near the Beaver Creek watersheds. Helicopter surveys of prey species yielded 84 elk, 363 mule deer, 16 white-tailed deer, and12 turkeys. Turkey counts were definitely low. At least 200 turkeys were using the area during mid-winter as determined from ground observations. Due to the large number of livestock operators with permits on the Sycamore area, extremely difficult hunting conditions, and the current low density of lions, a change of study areas has been recommended.
Cougar Biology • I. Taxonomy and Phylogeny • Family Felidae • Genus Felis by Linneaus in 1771 • Jardine reclassified as Puma in 1834 • More recent work reclassified as Felis • WozenCraft 1993 reinstituted Puma • Now accepted as Puma concolor • Puma is apparently an Incan word
Cougar Biology • I. Taxonomy and Phylogeny • 13 subspecies recognized based on cranial morphology (Goldman 1946) • Goldman, E. A. 1946. Classification of the races of Puma, Part 2. Pages 177-302 in S. P. Young and E. A. Goldman, eds., The Puma, Mysterious American Cat. The American Wildlife Institute, Washington, D.C. • Significant genetic diversity in South America, consistent with subspecies level taxonomy • North America single subspecies genetic homogeneity relative to South America • Cougar may have evolved in South America ~ 5 to 6 mya • Closest living relative is the cheetah
Cougar Biology • II. Historic Record to Present • Previously, largest geographic distribution of any land mammal in the new world • From northern British Columbia to tip of Tierra del Fuego and coast to coast • By late 1800’s eliminated from most of eastern U.S. range • 1900’s has seen diverse management strategies in the western U.S. • Bounty • No-bounty • Hunting • Protected
Cougar Biology • II. Historic Record • Current distribution and populations • Throughout much of Central and South America • Relatively large populations in 11 Western States, and British Columbia • Also, Alberta, South Dakota and Florida • Records from extreme southeast Alaska • Dispersing individuals in the mid-west • Captive releases occasionally in the east • W.A.G. North American population ~30 to 40,000 • Sum of estimated populations from (Logan, K. A. and L. L. Sweanor, 2000. Puma in Ecology and Management of Large Mammals in North America. Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Cougar Biology • III. Physical Traits: Growth Rates and Tracks • Both sexes reach adult weight by about 20 months • Males are significantly larger than females by 20 days of age
Cougar Biology • III. Physical Traits: Growth Rates and Tracks • Males’ heel pads significantly wider than females’ for both front and hind • Front heel pads are larger than hind in both sexes, but difference is significantly greater in males (although there is a lot of overlap)
Difference in Front and Hind Heel Width for Cougar Older than 20 Months
Cougar Biology • IV. Reproduction • Polygamous and promiscuous • One male will breed with several females • One female will breed with more than one male • Breeding Age • Females: 18 to 24 months • Males: ~ 20 to 24 months • Estrus cycle • ~37 days captive study • ~21 days wild population • Estrus period 6 to 8 days • Gestation • 82 to 103 days • Mean 91 days
Cougar Biology • IV. Reproduction • Litter size • 1 to 6 cubs • Average is 3 • Reproductive seasons • Can be born at anytime • Birth pulses: • Utah and Nevada: June to September • New Mexico: July to September • Time between successful litters (to 12 months or independence) • ~20 months • Time after failed litters • 20 to 300 days
Cougar Biology • IV. Reproduction • Life time production • Females may have up to 5 litters in their lifetime
Cougar Biology • V. Population and Metapopulation Dynamics • A. Population Dynamics • Growth Rates: the “r” in (Nt = N0ert) • 1 + r ~ λin Nt = N0 λt • Protected puma populations in open habitats in New Mexico have demonstrated an exponential growth rate (r) of 0.17 to 0.25 • r seen to drop to as low as 0.05 when population approaches carrying capacity • Hunted populations in Alberta demonstrated r’s of 0.04 to 0.08
Cougar Biology • V. Population and Metapopulation Dynamics • B. Resilience • New Mexico Study: ~55% reduction in population was replaced in 31 months
Cougar Biology • V. Population and Metapopulation Dynamics • C. Metapopulation Dynamics • Recruitment from immigration • Very important in cougar populations • Low density and patchy habitat • 1,000 to 2,200 Km2 area needed to sustain a non-migratory cougar population for 100 years with 98% certainty (Beier, P. 1993. Determining minimum habitat areas and habitat corridors for cougars. Conservation Biology 7: 94-108) • Immigrants may comprise up to 50% of annual recruitment in subpopulations in New Mexico
Cougar Biology • V. Population and Metapopulation Dynamics • C. Metapopulation Dynamics • Dispersal by Gender (Logan and Sweanor 2001) • Females tend to be phylopatric • ~70% emigrants are male • Females ~35 Km (22 miles) • Establish home ranges overlapping with or adjacent to nascent home range • Males ~102 Km (77 miles)
Cougar Biology • VI. Predation • A. Strategy • Tend to be generalists: taking the most abundant and vulnerable prey • B. Diet • Latitudinal gradient in prey size and cougar body size • <15kg in tropical areas: diet very diverse • >15kg in temperate areas: diet dominated by ungulates • Mule Deer • White-Tailed Deer • Elk • Moose
Cougar Biology • VI. Predation • B. Diet • New Mexico Study (Logan and Sweanor 2001) • Dominated by mule deer (90%+) by frequency and biomass but also very diverse
Cougar Biology • VI. Predation • C. Characteristics of Prey Capture • Visual predators • Use cover for stalking and ambush • Typically kill ungulates with bite to neck or throat • Cache kills under vegetation, cover with dirt and debris • Characteristic feeding pattern: • Clip hair • Remove vital organs first (heart, lungs, liver) • Eviscerate • Eat large muscle groups • Head and face • May stay with prey item for one to many days • Single day feeding may be more common that previously thought – Linda Sweanor pers. comm.
Cougar Biology • VI. Predation • D. Effects on Desert Mule Deer Populations • Cougar predation effects on deer population depends on climatic and habitat characteristics • Relatively wet years, cougar predation affects deer population growth rate BUT deer population continues to INCREASE • During drought years (especially consecutive years) cougar predation accelerates deer population decline
Cougar Biology • VI. Predation • D. Effects on Desert Mule Deer Populations • Primary mechanism • Appears to be predation rates on fawns • Wet years: • High fawn production. • Fawns absorb critical amount of cougar predation • Dry years: • Fawn production drops • Cougar predation increases on reproductive adult deer • Deer concentrate at water sites, and travel to unfamiliar areas, increasing susceptibility to predation
Management Considerations for the Midwest • I. Habitat Models • II. Remote Camera Surveys
Habitat Models • Utility of habitat modeling for mid-western states • To direct survey work • Anticipate most likely areas for establishment of resident populations • Establish framework for possible future management needs
Habitat Models • Procedure (From Cougar Management Guidelines) • 1. Map cougar habitat in accessible and modifiable form • GIS software
Habitat Models • 1. Map cougar habitat layers in accessible and modifiable form • GIS Layers • Vegetation • Topography • Land use • Ungulate population distribution • Roads • Population Centers • Land Ownership • Documented cougar occurrence • Nearest source populations
Habitat Models • 2. Combine layers to produce single map layer showing: • Habitat quality • Habitat patch size • Connectivity
Remote Cameras • 1. General Considerations • Pros: • Powerful tool for producing (mostly) unambiguous presence/absence data • Precise date and time • Condition of the animal • May assist with sex and age determination • Doesn’t charge overtime • Works 24/7 and 365d/year • May provide survey data on a number of species simultaneously
Remote Cameras • 1. General Considerations • Cons: • Because of low cougar density, requires high density of cameras monitored over long periods of time to produce confident presence/absence data even on a local scale • NEED for estimating “capture” probabilities with known populations • Expense: $260 to $1,400 per camera • Targets for theft and vandalism
Remote Cameras • 2. Specific Considerations • Trigger speed • Trigger Sensitivity • Adjustable? • Detection Distance • Flash Distance • Storage Capacity • Photo Quality • Power Supply • Weather Resistance
Remote Cameras • 3. Choosing a Camera • Many options available • Recommend: Cuddeback “Expert” • Fastest trigger speed • Adjustable trigger sensitivity • 25ft detection range • 40ft flash range (no flash option available) • Stores digital images on flashcard (3 Megapixel) • Can store 500+ images depending on size of card • Also takes video • 4 D-cell batteries • Long battery life (depends on number of night-time photos) • ~$366/camera
Wrong way to set a remote camera. Effective sampling zone is about 6 ft. Nothing Zone 8-10’ 2 meters
Wrong way to set a remote camera. Effective sampling zone is about 6 ft. Better 2 meters