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​​Mountain Lion Research
​​Mountain Lion Research

​​Mountain Lion Demographics and Human Interactions Along the Urban-Exurban Front Range

Led By

Mat Alldredge​

Study Area

Boulder and Jefferson Counties

Project Status

Completed 

Research Objectives

  • To assess mountain lion population demographics, movements, habitat use, prey selectivity and human interactions along the urban-exurban Front Range.

  • To assess conditioning techniques to keep mountain lions away from urban/exurban areas.

  • To assess mountain lion response to relocation.

Project Description

Colorado Parks and Wildlife found that most people find value in maintaining Colorado's mountain lion population in a 2005 public opinion survey. However, concern is growing over increased human-mountain lion conflicts. As a result, CPW initiated a long-term study to test various management strategies to reduce conflict and to collect data on mountain lion populations. 

Researchers focused the study on two management strategies: aversive conditioning, a method used to train mountain lions to stay away from urban/exurban areas, and relocation, a method that must be used if a mountain lion is found in a residential neighborhood.

Because most human-mountain lion interactions occurred in residential neighborhoods, researchers had few possibilities to implement conditioning techniques, thus its effectiveness as a management technique led to mixed results. 

In the past, relocation has also shown mixed results, but renewed interest in this management technique prompted researchers to explore this method in more detail. Relocation if not planned properly, can result in subsequent conflicts or the animal's death. Therefore, a successful relocation requires a relocation site that is far enough from the problem area, has suitable prey, and is remote enough so that future conflicts do not occur. 

To collect data on mountain lion feeding behaviors, researchers captured and outfitted mountain lions with GPS collars. These collars transmitted GPS coordinates for each cat every three hours, which allowed researchers to identify likely kill sites. GPS data also allowed researchers to collect data on mountain lion movement and habitat use. 

Graduate students and professionals used the GPS data collected during this project to investigate other research questions related to mountain lion population demographics and feeding behavior. Summaries of these projects are listed below.

Mountain Lion Foraging in an Urban to Rural Landscape

This project aimed to collect data on mountain lion feeding practices. Using data from mountain lions with GPS collars, researchers determined when and where mountain lions killed their prey in relation to human development and habitat. 

Modeling Movements of Mountain Lions

Researchers developed movement models and examined mountain lion GPS data for various movement patterns relative to roads, human density/activity, and other landscape/environmental features.

  • Hanks, E.M., M.B. Hooten, and M.W. Alldredge. 2012. Continuous-Time Discrete-Space Models for animal movement data. Journal of Agricultural, Biological, and Environmental Statistics. In Review.

  • Hooten, M.B., E.M. Hanks, D.S. Johnson, and M.W. Alldredge. (2013). Temporal variation and scale in movement-based resource selection functions. Statistical Methodology, In Press.

  • Hooten, M.B., E.M. Hanks, D.S. Johnson, and M.W. Alldredge. (2013). Reconciling resource utilization and resource selection functions. Journal of Animal Ecology, DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12080.

Predator-Prey Dynamics in Relation to Chronic Wasting Disease and Scavenging Interactions at Mountain Lion Kill Sites

This project aimed to document how often scavengers, such as black bears or red foxes, try to steal mountain lion kills and how successful they are in the process. Using motion-sensor cameras, researchers determined the average time it took for competing scavengers to arrive at a kill site and if the scavenger was successful at driving away the mountain lion. In addition, if a mountain lion killed a deer, elk or moose, the carcass was tested for chronic wasting disease. This allowed researchers to test the theory that predators seek out sick, old and young prey.  

The Use of Lures, Hair Snares, and Snow Tracking as Non-invasive Sampling Techniques to Detect and Identify Mountain Lions

This project aimed to test the use of non-invasive genetic sampling techniques to estimate population size, which is used to set harvest quotas, evaluate management practices and understand predator-prey dynamics. Researchers developed and evaluated snow tracking and hair snags for their potential use in non-invasive population sampling.  The use of calls to lure mountain lions into a hair snag was a novel concept that has shown great potential for future use. CPW initiated a long-term project to build on this work work.