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It is questionable whether food-habits studies of pumas conducted in the southwestern United States can be extrapolated to northwestern Mexico, because of differences in management, distribution, and abundance of wildlife. We determined food habits of pumas (Puma concolor) in the Sonoran Desert of northwestern Sonora, Mexico. Based on studies in the western United States, we hypothesized that desert mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) were the major food source of pumas in Sonoran Desert habitats of Mexico. The study area supports populations of desert mule deer, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), lagomorphs (Lepus spp. and Sylvilagus audubonii), collared peccary (Pecari tajacu), and the largest population (???300 individuals) of desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) in Sonora. Based on pugmark characteristics, we recorded 3 different adult resident pumas in approximately 90 km2. We analyzed 60 puma fecal samples collected September 1996-November 1998. Primary prey items based on frequency of occurrence and estimated biomass consumed were desert bighorn sheep (40% and 45%, respectively), lagomorphs (33%, 19%), deer (17%, 17%), and collared peccary (15%, 11%). The high percentage of desert bighorn sheep in puma diets may be due to high abundance relative to mule deer, which declined in number during our study. No differences were found in puma diets between seasons (??22=2.4526, P=0.2934). Fluctuations in mule deer populations in northwestern Sonora may influence prey selection by pumas.
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Food habits of pumas in northwestern Sonora, Mexico