We documented behaviors that wild pumas (Puma concolor) exhibited when approached by researchers during a 10-year study of a puma population in New Mexico. We approached and visually observed responses of 75 radiocollared pumas on 251 occasions and 7 noncollared pumas on 5 occasions. These pumas seldom had contact with people, except in the context of puma research activities. Pumas we approached included adult females with nursing (n=71) and weaned (n=46) cubs, solitary independent females (n=77), solitary independent males (n=46), breeding pairs (n=5), and weaned cubs in the absence of their mother (n=11). Approach distance ranged from 2–400 m (median=30.8 m), number of observers ranged from 1–8 people (median=2), and duration of observation ranged from <1 to >120 minutes. Pumas exhibited threat behavior (e.g., hissed, growled, approached, charged) in 16 instances (6% of observations). Females accompanied by cubs exhibited 14 of the 16 threats. Although we observed all threats when we were 2–50 m away (median=18.5 m), in another 156 observations when we approached to within similar distances (range = 3–50 m, median = 20.0 m), pumas showed no threat response. In these cases, the pumas left the area (n=114), watched us without leaving (n=37), or showed no detectable response (n=5). These responses by pumas to human approaches provide insight into the range in behaviors exhibited by pumas in environments where they have not become habituated to humans. This may aid our understanding of puma behavior, including interpretations of behaviors that might be exhibited by pumas in more human-dominated environments.
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