In the Santa Cruz mountains, pumas are top predators, patrolling a diverse landscape of forests, meadows, peaks, and valleys. But “mountain lion country” is also bordered by coastal cities to the west and Silicon Valley to the east, with major roadways and fringes of development reaching into wildlands. As a result, humans have become a major source of mortality and fear for these cats. UC Santa Cruz researchers have shown that pumas will go to great lengths to avoid human “super predators,” even bolting away from food at the sound of human voices.
And now, the research team’s latest work shows that these types of avoidance behaviours take a serious toll on pumas. A new paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that fear of humans causes mountain lions to increase their energy expenditures as they move through the landscape, and this can ultimately limit the size of the home ranges they’re able to maintain. Researchers are concerned about the long term impacts this might have on pumas and the ecosystems they help to regulate. MORE
Header image: Sebastian Kennerknecht.