Mountain Lion Movements and Dispersal

The Trans-Pecos landscape has been referred to as “sky islands surrounded by a sea of desert.”  Despite this naturally fragmented landscape, wildlife have been able to maneuver from mountain range to mountain range using natural corridors and their innate ability to pioneer new habitats. 

Using the combination of GPS and satellite technology we are currently monitoring mountain lions to determine how often they frequent water, use kill sites, socialize, and travel along corridors. 

Movements vary considerably depending on age and gender.  Adult mountain lions show an affinity to a specific home range, but still travel long distances within their range in a given day.    Subadults typically disperse at 1-3 years of age. Dispersal is defined as the one-way movement of a young animal from its natal range.  Dispersal distances can be tremendous (up to 663 miles documented in previous studies).  Most males will disperse entirely from their natal range, whereas about half of females will establish residency adjacent to their natal range. 

We have documented 2 dispersal events to date including that of a 2-year old female and a 2-year old male of different litters.  The male began his dispersal by heading south of the Davis Mountains taking him near Mitre Peak, through Paisano Pass, on to Del Norte Mountains, and then to the Glass Mountains.  The time frame for this dispersal spanned 3 weeks.

 

collar

GPS radiocollars are affixed to sedated mountain lions prior to being released.  GPS data are downloaded daily via satellites to monitor movements and behavior of mountain lions.

dispersal

A 2-year old female mountain lion dispersed from her natal range until she found a formidable barrier (Interstate 10). After stopping at the highway, she returned to her natal range and then proceeded in a southeastern direction.