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PUMA BIOLOGY. Cougar Biology Preface: Sources/Literature I. Taxonomy and Nomenclature II. Historic Record to Present III. Physical Traits: Growth Rates.

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Presentation on theme: "PUMA BIOLOGY. Cougar Biology Preface: Sources/Literature I. Taxonomy and Nomenclature II. Historic Record to Present III. Physical Traits: Growth Rates."— Presentation transcript:

1 PUMA BIOLOGY

2 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

3 Cougar Biology Preface: Literature Sources –Shaw, H. G Mountain Lion Field Guide. Special Report No. 9, Arizona Game and Fish Department. –Logan, K. A. and L. L. Sweanor, Puma in Ecology and Management of Large Mammals in North America. Prentice-Hall, Inc. –Logan, K. A. and L. L. Sweanor Desert Puma: Evolutionary Ecology of an Enduring Carnivore. Island Press, Washington, D. C. –Cougar Management Guidelines Working Group Cougar Management Guidelines. WildFutures, Bainbridge Island, WA.

4 Cougar Biology Preface: Literature Sources Shaw, H.G 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.

5 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

6 Cougar Biology I. Taxonomy and Phylogeny –13 subspecies recognized based on cranial morphology (Goldman 1946) Goldman, E. A Classification of the races of Puma, Part 2. Pages 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

7 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

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9 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, Puma in Ecology and Management of Large Mammals in North America. Prentice-Hall, Inc.

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11 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

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13 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)

14 Right Hind Heel Width (cm) for Cougar older than 20 Months

15 Right Front Heel Width (cm) for Cougar Older than 20 Months

16 Difference in Front and Hind Heel Width for Cougar Older than 20 Months

17 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

18 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

19 Cougar Biology IV. Reproduction –Life time production Females may have up to 5 litters in their lifetime

20 Cougar Biology V. Population and Metapopulation Dynamics –A. Population Dynamics Growth Rates: the “r” in (N t = N 0 e rt ) –1 + r ~ λ in N t = N 0 λ t 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

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23 Deer for comparison

24 Cougar Biology V. Population and Metapopulation Dynamics –B. Resilience New Mexico Study: ~55% reduction in population was replaced in 31 months

25 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 Km 2 area needed to sustain a non-migratory cougar population for 100 years with 98% certainty (Beier, P Determining minimum habitat areas and habitat corridors for cougars. Conservation Biology 7: ) –Immigrants may comprise up to 50% of annual recruitment in subpopulations in New Mexico

26 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)

27 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

28 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

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31 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.

32 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

33 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

34 Management Considerations for the Midwest I. Habitat Models II. Remote Camera Surveys

35 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

36 Habitat Models Procedure (From Cougar Management Guidelines) –1. Map cougar habitat in accessible and modifiable form GIS software

37 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

38 Habitat Models 2. Combine layers to produce single map layer showing: –Habitat quality –Habitat patch size –Connectivity

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41 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

42 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

43 Remote Cameras 2. Specific Considerations –Trigger speed –Trigger Sensitivity Adjustable? –Detection Distance –Flash Distance –Storage Capacity –Photo Quality –Power Supply –Weather Resistance

44 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

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46 2 meters 8-10’ Nothing Zone Wrong way to set a remote camera. Effective sampling zone is about 6 ft.

47 2 meters Wrong way to set a remote camera. Effective sampling zone is about 6 ft. Better

48 2 meters

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