Mountain lion prey and predator relationship

Biology and Behavior Portal - Mountain Lion Foundation

mountain lion prey and predator relationship

Relationships between predator and prey abundance are complex and not easily predators are primarily mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats, although black. If body size affected prey selection by coyotes and mountain lions, .. is needed to understand predator–prey relationships more completely. Mean- while, mountain lions, as apex predators, are expected to select for areas that will provide adequate prey while also providing the cover.

This team uncovered some surprising results that run contrary to accepted understanding of mountain lion biology and behavior. First, they selected a square-mile area within the square-mile range of the North Kings deer herd and set out to capture as many lions as time and funding allowed. Over a period of 3 years, they captured, radio equipped, and tracked 22 mountain lions.

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During the study they discovered 15 adult mountain lions that were using the area but were not radio-equipped, yet were known to be different individuals. The lion locations determined by radio triangulation were computer plotted onto large-scale maps and aerial photos. This gave a good picture of daily and seasonal movements of mountain lions in the study area.

Home-range size By plotting the locations of each cat on a map, the scientists were able to determine the size of the animal's home range and the relationships between individual lions. Home ranges of 14 adult lions tracked over 12 months averaged square miles. Those of females averaged and those of males averaged square miles.

mountain lion prey and predator relationship

Seasonal movements Each time a mountain lion was located by radio triangulation and plotted on a map or aerial photograph, the elevation was also recorded. This combination of location and elevation showed that most of the mountain lions migrated to high elevations in the summer and to lower elevations in the winter, following the patterns of the deer--their traditional prey.

However, detailed examination of the data revealed that several of the lions remained at low elevation in the foothills and valley edges throughout the year. They were found on ranches and among the rural communities.

mountain lion prey and predator relationship

These lions occupied territories below most of the migrating deer in the winter, and these areas had no deer in the summer. This leaves only small mammals, livestock, and pets for a diet--a good way for a mountain lion to get into trouble.

mountain lion prey and predator relationship

Density With the data on the radio-equipped cats, plus information on the known individuals without radios, the team had the data they needed to estimate mountain lion density. Of the 22 lions captured and radio equipped within the square-mile study area, not all were alive with operating radios during the entire study period.

mountain lion prey and predator relationship

Therefore, one date was selected, January 1,and only the 14 lions alive and being monitored on that date were used to estimate density. This of course, underestimates the lion density because it does not include lions without radios using the areaor those with radios that have quit transmitting.

The team recognized that the number of lions using an area and lion density are not the same thing. Every radio-equipped lion used some area outside of the square-mile study area. They calculated the proportion of each animal's home range that was within the study area and used that to estimate density. Therefore, the 14 adult cats using the area on January 1,adjusted to a total of 6. When the scientists added in the known cats that were not radio-equipped, making a similar adjustment to allow for only partial use of the study area, they calculated the density of adult mountain lions in the study area at 6.

Home-range overlap Mountain lions are generally thought to be solitary animals that defend their home ranges for their exclusive use. But, when you look at the density of mountain lions and the size of the home ranges, it's easy to see that if all the female lions maintained exclusive home ranges, there would be 7.

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This can only mean overlap and home-range sharing. Extensive home-range overlap was found between females, between males, and between females and males. One female shared parts of her home range with five other radio-equipped females and an unknown number of males and unradioed lions.

Predator-Prey Relationships

Reproduction Other workers have stated that when the density of mountain lions reaches the point that home ranges overlap, breeding stops. Many times this causes an increase in the number of Mountain Lions in that area, as dispersing subadults — transients, are in search of their own territory. Generally, a female will mate with the male whose territory overlaps hers although she may also mate with other males she encounters during her estrus period. Mountain Lions are solitary and males and females are seen together only during the 3 - 10 days of mating when the female becomes sexually receptive.

The male will copulate with a female many times during that timeframe and then he will return to his solitary lifestyle. Male Mountain Lions reach sexual maturity between 1 and 2.

Mountain Lions vs. Deer

A female establishes a territory before becoming sexually receptive. Mating can occur any time of the year, however, most litters are produced from July through September.

Mountain Lions give birth at 1. The gestation period pregnancy is approximately 90 days and a litter can range from 1 to 4 cubs however, litter sizes of 2 and 3 cubs are most common. Female Mountain Lions take care of their cubs by themselves from birth until dispersal of cubs at age 12 - 24 months. Mountain Lions can live up to 13 years in the wild and 19 years in captivity.