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1 April 2007 Numerical and Demographic Responses of Pumas to Changes in Prey Abundance: Testing Current Predictions
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Information on factors affecting population size of pumas (Puma concolor) can be important because their principal prey over most of the western United States are valued big game species (e.g., mule deer [Odocoileus hemionus], elk [Cervus elaphus], and bighorn sheep [Ovis canadensis]). Based on the hypothesis that puma numbers are limited by their food supply, puma populations should track changes in prey abundance by growing exponentially with increases in prey and by declining with a lag response when prey decreases. Additional predictions proposed by researchers are that body mass of pumas, female productivity, kitten survival, and adult survival should decrease after a prey decline. We used a 15-year database from a hunted population of pumas in southern Idaho and northwestern Utah to test these predictions. During the 15-year time span of the database, a major decline in mule deer abundance occurred. Estimates of puma numbers and demographic characteristics came from intensive capture and radiocollaring efforts. We calculated kitten and adult survival with MICROMORT software. We found that adult puma numbers increased exponentially at r = 0.07 during a period of increasing mule deer numbers. Four years after the mule deer abundance declined, puma numbers decreased at a rate of r = −0.06. Body mass of female pumas was lower after the decline in puma numbers (42.6 ± SE = 1.2 kg, n = 40 vs. 40.1 ± 0.64 kg, n = 34, t = 5.06, P = 0.045). Kitten survival was less after the decline in deer abundance (0.573 ± 0.016, n = 30 vs. 0.856 ± 0.015, n = 25, Z = 2.40, P < 0.01). Survival of resident females was significantly less after the decline in puma numbers (0.783 ± 0.03 vs. 0.929 ± 0.019, U = 55.0, P = 0.009). Female productivity did not differ before or after the decline in deer abundance. Our results supported the majority of the predictions concerning the impact of changing deer abundance, which supported the hypothesis that the abundance of mule deer limited our population of pumas.

JOHN W. LAUNDRÉ, LUCINA HERNÁNDEZ, and SUSAN G. CLARK "Numerical and Demographic Responses of Pumas to Changes in Prey Abundance: Testing Current Predictions," Journal of Wildlife Management 71(2), 345-355, (1 April 2007).
Published: 1 April 2007

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