Cougar dispersal and natal homing in a desert environment

Western North American Naturalist
By: , and 

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Abstract

We present a review of cougar dispersal literature and the first evidence of natural (i.e., unmanipulated) homing behavior by a dispersing male cougar (Puma concolor) that sustained severe injuries crossing the northern Mojave Desert. Based on Global Positioning System and ground tracking data, the male traveled a total distance of 981.1 km at 5.03 km/d, including 170.31 km from the Desert National Wildlife Refuge to the northwestern Grand Canyon, where he sustained severe injuries. The interkill interval increased from 7.1 ± 2.7 d while he was in his natal range to 17.5 ± 4.9 d during dispersal. While homing, the male appeared to consume only reptiles until he died, 33.7 km from his capture site. In desert environments where prey availability is low, homing behavior may be an important strategy for dispersing cougars, providing a mechanism for persistence when the best quality habitats they encounter are already occupied by adult residents. Therefore, managing for habitat connectivity can ensure successful homing as well as dispersal on a greater scale than has been previously suggested. Elucidating the mechanisms that trigger homing during dispersal may provide critical insight into animal movements often overlooked as mundane behavior.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Cougar dispersal and natal homing in a desert environment
Series title Western North American Naturalist
DOI 10.3398/064.078.0215
Volume 78
Issue 2
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, Brigham Young University
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 15 p.
First page 221
Last page 235
Country United States
State Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah
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