MOUNTAIN LION RESEARCH
Whether you call them mountain lions, cougars, panthers, or pumas, you can’t help but respect them. That admiration stems from the fact that mountain lions are extremely elusive, have the ability to take prey up to 5 times their weight, occur at extremely low densities, and are solitary animals.
Mountain lions once occurred throughout Texas, but today their distribution is limited to the southern and western portions of the state. Mountain lions are classified as nongame animals with no restrictions on harvest in Texas.
Because of their elusive behavior, our knowledge on mountain lion ecology is still lacking. Most information on mountain lions comes from studies conducted in western states or from federal and state lands, where harvest restrictions are in place.
We designed a project to address 2 fundamental questions:
(1) “Is mountain lion predation a limiting factor for prey in the Davis Mountains?”, and
(2) “Are demographic patterns for mountain lions on private lands different from previous studies on public lands?”
Our goal is to investigate the ecology of mountain lions in the Davis Mountains as it relates to the questions outlined above. To meet this goal, we are researching the following objectives:
- Collect baseline demographic data (survival, mortality factors, reproduction, movements, diets, density) from a mountain lion population that occurs on private lands;
- Estimate prey availability and abundance;
- Estimate the impact mountain lions have on prey populations in the Davis Mountains; and
- Construct a predator-prey model to evaluate management scenarios.
Recently, we've also initiated a study along with Big Bend National Park investigating the potential for human-mountain lion conflicts. The study began in 2014 and will evaluate moutain lion movements and habitat use in relation to recreational park use by people.