DOW Researchers Begins Mountain Lion Study

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A Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) research team has begun trapping and collaring mountain lions on southwestern Colorado’s Uncompahgre Plateau as part of the largest study ever conducted on the native carnivores.

Researchers already have captured and collared four adult lions as they learn more about the areas where the big cats live and hunt deer and elk in prime Colorado wildlife habitat.

“We’ve had a good start and are beginning to know the study area,” said Ken Logan, the nationally recognized puma researcher hired by the DOW to conduct the study. “I expect things to pick up now that we’re beginning to better understand where the cats live.”

Over the next 10 years, Logan’s team will capture, sample, tag and track pumas to learn more about their populations, movements, prey, interactions with people and domestic animals, and the effects of hunting. An additional focus of the study will be to test tools wildlife managers can use to better estimate lion numbers.

The first lion captured was a large 3-year-old male estimated to weigh about 150 pounds. A healthy 4-year-old, 95-pound adult female was captured in early January and is now wearing a radio collar and tag that will allow researchers to track her location.

Since then two more—a 143-pound male and an 88-pound female—have been collared as well.

“The DOW’s wildlife managers want information that improves our understanding of how puma populations respond to hunting, puma habitat needs, and their role in the ecology of prey species,” Logan said. “And because of the rapid pace of development in Colorado, wildlife managers want to better understand human/puma interactions and how best to manage them.

“If we are successful, managers will have new information and new tools that will help them in the long-term management of pumas, including lion hunting, human safety and damage to domestic animals,” Logan added.

Logan is relying on expert lion trackers familiar with the study area to track and collar lions.

“The houndsmen and their dogs we have been using have worked hard and successfully despite difficult tracking conditions,” Logan said.

The research team also has received excellent cooperation and support from local landowners, ranchers and sportsmen.

“Their support of our efforts will be a key to our success,” Logan’s said.

Logan has also brought carnivore research associate Jim Bauer on board to focus on field research on the Uncompahgre Puma Project. Bauer worked for four years on a southern California puma-human interaction study before joining Logan’s team in Colorado.

The study has received wide support from hunting and environmental groups. The last major mountain study in Colorado was conducted nearly 20 years ago in the same area by DOW researcher Allen Anderson.

“Studying the puma population under both management scenarios will allow us to better understand the impacts hunting has on the lion population and to evaluate the reliability of population estimation tools,” Logan said. “The DOW wants the best science-based management of pumas possible, and this study will help reach that goal.”

Logan’s previous research has been recognized nationally. Working with other scientists, he completed a research project last year in southern California. Previously he and his colleague and wife, Linda Sweanor, completed a long-term study of pumas for the state of New Mexico.