New Mountain Lion Study Shows Increased Ungulate Impact

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While wolves take most of the press these days, it seems that the other big North American predator may have been overlooked in its effectiveness at taking game. Cougar populations in the U.S. are increasing but what is not as well understood is how many ungulates (deer, elk, moose) they consume in a given time frame. A new study in the Journal of Wildlife Management suggests that mountain lions may be taking far more game then previously thought.

The has a good write up about the study and its impacts.

"One of the most interesting things we found was how much more prey they kill in summer," said Kyle Knopff, lead author of a three-year Canadian mountain lion study that was recently published in the Journal of Wildlife Management. "Just how focused they become on young of the year ungulates was surprising." "Our kill rate estimates indicate that adult cougars are highly effective predators, killing at rates at the upper end of those recorded for wolves in both frequency and biomass," Knopff wrote.

Based on the Canadian data, the cougars killed on average 0.8 ungulates (mainly whitetail deer and moose) a week, an average of about 18 pounds a day. That statistic varied widely, though, based on the individual - from a low of 0.24 ungulates to a high of 1.38, or 18 to 41 pounds a day.


hawkeye270's picture

This is a very interesting

This is a very interesting study indeed and would have been an awesome research project to be a part of. We have a couple of similar studies being conducted in Colorado. GPS units attached to cats have allowed us study them much more effectively. It is hard to study such an elusive large carnivore but by doing cluster analysis on groups of geographic points provided by the collars, you are able to figure out what type of point clusters represent a kill site before ever going into the field. Upon identifying a kill sight, you can then go into the field and investigate it. This type of study would never have been possible just using telemetry collars. The .8 figure is not all that far off from what I have learned and so the results are not that suprising. That one big male sounds like quite the predator. You would have to be if you were specializing in predating on feral horses and moose. That is pretty darn impressive but then again, I investigated a lion kill in Rocky Mountain National Park this summer where a mature 5x5 bull elk was killed. That is not a trivial prey animal either.

jim boyd's picture

I agree with CA-V - this is a

I agree with CA-V - this is a highly interesting study.

I immediately think of the fact that they make a lot of kills in the summer and of course, concentrate on the young... all of nature is this way. There is little new in that part of the report.

I see they state that cougar populations are increasing, I would assume that is a good thing (unless you are a fawn!!) and that it is a result of good management and more control over the land by authorities. I see that mountain lion hunting is actually conducted by guides in the west... more hunts equals more revenue for every one - businesses and the state coffers.

I would also state that cougars have an advantage over wolves and coyotes - stealth and the ability to climb trees and lay in wait... they can not form a pack (at least I do not think the can or do) and hunt that way - but you may also have to consider that when a pack of wolves takes down an animal, they have to share in the kill... a cougar may keep it and eat at will for several days, particularly if they can drag it up into a tree and get it away from ground based predators.

As long as it in the natural setting and the animals are in their home range, I am all for it... what I am not all for is coyotes expanding steadily and making their impact felt where they are not indigenous (sp?).... as far as I am concerned, their impact is negative and not part of natures's plan and they should be shot.

I have never shot a bobcat, fox or any other animal like that here in the south (or any where else for that matter) in spite of the fact that they prey on turkeys... at least they belong here and ARE part of the master plan.

Again, this was a great read and I enjoyed it very well...

Now... about hunting out west with bears and mountain lions... that worries me!!! Becoming part of the food chain - anywhere other than at the very top - is very troubling to me!

Ca_Vermonster's picture

Wow, interesting study. I

Wow, interesting study.

I knew they killed alot of animals, but I cannot believe they are killing moose too?  That one part said that a male lion killed 18 moose one year.  I wonder if they were calves, or full grown adults.

We know all about the mountain lion predation out here.  Unfortunately for us, I never see California allowing a hunting season on them.