Mountain Lion Habitat Use

Mountain lions are known to use a variety of habitats ranging from coastal prairies to rolling hills to forested mountains.  They require habitat that has water, provides adequate prey, and contains screening cover.  Screening cover can come in the form of thick brush, steep terrain, rocks/boulders, or a combination thereof.

The Trans-Pecos epitomizes typical mountain lion habitat with its rough mountainous terrain, high prey diversity and availability, and the variety of natural and man-made water sources.  The Trans-Pecos is also an important location for mountain lions because it lies between 2 vital sources of mountain lions: the Rocky Mountains of the western United States and the Sierra Madres of Mexico.

Using data from Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, we developed a preliminary habitat model for mountain lions in the Trans-Pecos.  We used over 2,700 radiolocations from 16 mountain lions monitored from those areas.  We extracted geographic data from each point relative to elevation, vegetation types, and distance to water to predict mountain lion habitat for west Texas.

Based on our data, the model had good predictability.  However, most of the data came from the southern distribution of the Trans-Pecos and may not be representative of other mountain ranges in Texas. 

We will be refining the habitat model by using data collected from the Davis Mountains.  With each satellite collar collecting 6 locations per day, we will be able to better understand how mountain lions maneuver through the landscape.  This is especially important as land fragmentation has been increasing across the state and more barriers are proposed across international boundaries. 

Natural corridors are also relevant as we try to understand the genetic isolation that has occurred in south Texas as well as the importance of New Mexico and Mexico to mountain lion populations in the Trans-Pecos.  

habitat

A preliminary habitat model for mountain lion in the Trans-Pecos. High habitat quality is noted in red with low habitat quality noted in blue. The model illustrates the vast amount of high quality habitat in west Texas.

 

water

© Bert Geary

Although little data is available on how often mountain lions use water, recent data suggests that water may be a limiting factor for mountain lions.