Age-specific Foraging Strategies Among Pumas, And Its Implications For Aiding Ungulate Populations Through Carnivore Control
July 4, 2019
Humans have been controlling carnivore numbers for centuries. Predator hunting, however, may indirectly influence predator-prey dynamics unintentionally by influencing the age- and sex-structure of predator populations that exhibit intraspecific (IS) variation in prey selection. We tested for IS in a small population of pumas in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, United States, and identified foraging strategies shared by multiple individuals. Further, we tested extrinsic and intrinsic variables that explained differences in foraging strategy. Our top model was composed of a single intrinsic characteristic, Age. In short, the older the animal, the larger the prey it specialized upon. Our provocative results suggest that the current controversial strategy of increasing puma culling to aid mule deer, as currently underway in Colorado, may in fact exacerbate problems for mule deer by changing the age-structure of the puma population to predominantly younger animals that are more likely to hunt deer over elk.
Author(s): L. Mark Elbroch, Howard Quigley