These interesting science based articles about Pumas (also known as Cougars and Mountain Lions) cover recent research on Puma ecology.
Images are copyright the article or research publisher, or photographer credited in the original article. Summaries have been adapted from the original articles.
Pumas as Ecological Brokers
Original Article: Puma Power by Defenders of Wildlife Magazine – Spring 2022
- A review on Puma interactions with other species found relationships with a total of 485 other species.
- The study identified 203 species as Puma prey, 281 species that feed on their prey and 12 species as competitors.
- Other ecosystem services included feeding on invasive feral species as well as large prey that cause vehicle collisions like deer.
- Scientists hope the study will highlight the need to further protect and restore Puma habitats and populations, and create awareness about the Puma’s benefits to both humans and wildlife.
Research Paper: LaBarge, L.R., Evans, M.J., Miller, J.R.B., Cannataro, G., Hunt, C. and Elbroch, L.M. (2022), Pumas Puma concolor as ecological brokers: a review of their biotic relationships. Mam Rev, 52: 360-376. https://doi.org/10.1111/mam.12281
Using Facial Recognition to Count Cougars
Original Podcast: How AI Facial Recognition Is Helping Conserve Pumas by Ashleigh Papp Scientific American – June 2022
- Researchers in Yellowstone National Park needed to identify Cougars in their population estimate study using camera traps.
- However unlike Tigers and other spotted big cats, Cougars have no unique patterns on their coats that can be used to identify individuals.
- However Cougars do have marked facial features. So using a recorded kitten call that caused the cats to turn and look at the camera, facial shots were collected.
- Five independent reviewers studied the images and attempted to ID the individual animals. Agreement amongst reviewers was moderate to good.
- This study opens up new opportunities like facial recognition technology that could expedite the image analysis process of elusive and unmarked species.
Research Paper: Alexander, P. D., & Craighead, D. J. (2022). A novel camera trapping method for individually identifying pumas by facial features. Ecology and Evolution, 12, e8536. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.8536
Donkeys and Mountain Lions Replicate Ancient Interactions
Original Article: Introduced donkeys and indigenous pumas are helping to resurrect extinct food webs in Death Valley by Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County – July 2022
- Around 12,000 years ago ancient species of horses roamed the Americas and were hunted by large predators, such as saber-toothed cats and dire wolves.
- Today introduced domestic horses and donkeys have established feral populations in the wild and supposedly lack predators. They are viewed as pests and millions of dollars are spent in eradication attempts.
- However recent research with camera traps has revealed mountain lion predation on wild donkeys, suggesting that the cats have taken the place of the ancient predators that once hunted ancient equids.
- Focusing on desert wetlands the study investigated differences between sites with and without mountain lion predation. Sites without predation had numerous trails, little vegetation and large sections of trampled bare ground. Sites with predation were lush with undisturbed vegetation, only a few donkey trails and limited trampling.
- The researchers concluded that increasing protection of mountain lions would likely reduce wild horse and donkey population growth rates and reduce their impacts on ecologically sensitive areas, such as the arid southwest.
Research Paper: Erick J. Lundgren et al, A novel trophic cascade between cougars and feral donkeys shapes desert wetlands, Journal of Animal Ecology (2022). DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13766
Tours to see Pumas
The following organizations offer tours to South America where you are likely to see Pumas in their natural habitat. These companies offer small group experiences, support conservation projects, and indicate their trips are environmentally and ethically responsible:
- Cat Expeditions – Puma Photo Tour
- Naturetrek – South America’s Big Cats
- Natural World Safaris – Puma Safari
Always bear in mind that sightings of any particular animal in its natural environment are not guaranteed and the experience of guides will greatly enhance your success.
Puma / Cougar / Mountain Lion Books
For visitors from other countries, find the name of a book you’d like on either of the above two sites, then search for it on AbeBooks to see if there is a local bookstore in your country that can supply it. AbeBooks is also a great source of second hand or out of print books.
All visitors can also download a free reading app for Kindle to your smart phone, tablet or computer from Amazon. You can then read any Kindle ebook ordered from Amazon on your own device, regardless of which country you reside in, and there is no need for a Kindle device.
Puma / Cougar / Mountain Lion Art
Browse beautiful artwork by artists all over the world.