Estimating cougar predation rates from GPS location clusters

Journal of Wildlife Management



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We examined cougar (Puma concolor) predation from Global Positioning System (GPS) location clusters (???2 locations within 200 m on the same or consecutive nights) of 11 cougars during September-May, 1999-2001. Location success of GPS averaged 2.4-5.0 of 6 location attempts/night/cougar. We surveyed potential predation sites during summer-fall 2000 and summer 2001 to identify prey composition (n = 74; 3-388 days post predation) and record predation-site variables (n = 97; 3-270 days post predation). We developed a model to estimate probability that a cougar killed a large mammal from data collected at GPS location clusters where the probability of predation increased with number of nights (defined as locations at 2200, 0200, or 0500 hr) of cougar presence within a 200-m radius (P < 0.001). Mean estimated cougar predation rates for large mammals were 7.3 days/kill for subadult females (1-2.5 yr; n = 3, 90% CI: 6.3 to 9.9), 7.0 days/kill for adult females (n = 2, 90% CI: 5.8 to 10.8), 5.4 days/kill for family groups (females with young; n = 3, 90% CI: 4.5 to 8.4), 9.5 days/kill for a subadult male (1-2.5 yr; n = 1, 90% CI: 6.9 to 16.4), and 7.8 days/kill for adult males (n = 2, 90% CI: 6.8 to 10.7). We may have slightly overestimated cougar predation rates due to our inability to separate scavenging from predation. We detected 45 deer (Odocoileus spp.), 15 elk (Cervus elaphus), 6 pronghorn (Antilocapra americana), 2 livestock, 1 moose (Alces alces), and 6 small mammals at cougar predation sites. Comparisons between cougar sexes suggested that females selected mule deer and males selected elk (P < 0.001). Cougars averaged 3.0 nights on pronghorn carcasses, 3.4 nights on deer carcasses, and 6.0 nights on elk carcasses. Most cougar predation (81.7%) occurred between 1901-0500 hr and peaked from 2201-0200 hr (31.7%). Applying GPS technology to identify predation rates and prey selection will allow managers to efficiently estimate the ability of an area's prey base to sustain or be affected by cougar predation.

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Estimating cougar predation rates from GPS location clusters
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Journal of Wildlife Management
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Journal of Wildlife Management
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