Human-Mountain Lion Conflict Potential at Big Bend National Park

Mountain lion attacks or conflicts with humans are rare, but various factors such as habitat fragmentation and growing human populations may increase the likelihood of these encounters.  In Big Bend National Park, located in west Texas, there have been 21 mountain lion encounters since 2004, ranging from mountain lions approaching people in a non-threatening manner to those of more severity, including actual attacks. The severity of mountain lion-human interactions was accentuated on 5 February 2012, when a 6–year old boy was attacked while returning with his parents to their room from the Chisos Mountain Lodge Restaurant. The lion attack was deterred after the father stabbed the mountain lion with a pocket knife.

This latest attack underlined the need for an evaluation of the current and future potential for human-mountain lion conflicts in order to provide park staff with information that can be used to help minimize this potential. In 2014 Borderlands Research Institute began a study evaluating mountain lion distribution and movements at the park in relation to park use by people. 

As of April 2014, two mountain lions within the Chisos Mountains high human use area have been fitted with GPS collars.  These collars, which send location data via email twice daily, will record the location of the mountain lion at least 6 times a day, and 2 days a week locations will be recorded every hour.  This detailed information on mountain lion activity and movements will help to give researchers a better understanding of how mountain lion behavior relates to human use of the park. 

Additionally, over 50 remote cameras will be set up in a grid across the Chisos Mountains, surveying an area of 450 sq km in the area of the park that sees the highest use by people. Remote cameras will be used to estimate mountain lion density and availability and habitat use of prey species. 

 

mountain lion

GPS collars on mountain lions in Big Bend National Park allow researchers to monitor their movements and behavior in relation to human use.

 

camera photo

Remote cameras provide the ability to survey for mountain lions, as well as other wildlife making use of the high human use areas of the park.