Conservation Magazine has an interesting article on mountain lions living near cities.
Large carnivores, like mountain lions (which are also called pumas, cougars, or panthers, depending on where you are), are sensitive to human disturbances because they have slow life cycles, require large territories, and suffer persecution by humans for real, imagined, or anticipated losses of pets or livestock. As a result, developed landscapes tend not to serve as homes for these apex predators. Their localized decline or extirpation commonly leads to two phenomena: mesopredator release, which is the proliferation of smaller carnivores, like coyotes or foxes, and the overpopulation of primary consumers, like deer. But some large carnivores have found a way to persist in human landscapes. Rather than running away, they modify their behavior to reduce run-ins with us. Take P22, the famous mountain lion photographed underneath the Hollywood sign. He’s lived in Los Angeles’s Griffith Park for several years, and if not for a series of camera traps, would generally remain undetected.
Even if they’re not driven away completely, the mountain lions’ modified behavior is still likely to alter their communities. That’s what University of California, Santa Cruz researchers Justine A. Smith, Yiwei Wang, and Christopher C. Wilmers wanted to find out.
As typical solitary hunters, mountain lions expend quite a bit of energy bringing down large ungulates like deer, and gain a considerable amount of nutrition from the carcasses for several days. They’re physically constrained by the amount of food their guts can contain, which is why they keep returning to the same kill site to feast upon their leftovers.
In cities, carnivores like mountain lions can be displaced from their kill sites by human activity. That leaves the carcass open for scavenging by other predators or carrion eaters and, if left long enough, to decomposition. Taken together, the big cats might suffer from reduced caloric intake due to a perceived risk from human activities. Wilmers hypothesized that this would occur more often in more developed areas.
As a consequence of not being able to finish their meals, it turned out that city cats’ hunger simply drove them to take down more deer just to get the same amount of food. For the females, at least. Their overall time spent eating declined by 42% as housing density increased. Those in more urbanized areas killed 36% more deer than the females in the most natural habitats.
Read the full article here: http://conservationmagazine.org/2015/01/mountain-lions-survive-near-cities-but-at-what-cost/
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