Friday, December 10, 2010

Study finds mountain lions may be eating more than previously believed

Mountain lions, the largest members of the cat family in North America, may be heartier eaters than some researchers originally estimated. Knopff is basing his conclusions on data collected from more than 1,500 kill sites while tracking 54 cougars with GPS collars. The collars allowed the University of Alberta researchers, including his wife Aliah, to move in quickly after a kill to identify what was taken and by which lion. In the journal article Knopff writes that some previous studies “may have failed to identify higher kill rates for large carnivores in summer because methods in those studies did not permit researchers to locate many neonates or because sample size was too small.” The use of GPS collars enabled Knopff and his colleagues to collect more data. As a result, he found that mountain lions killed more deer, elk and moose during the summer by focusing on juveniles and actually killed fewer animals in winter. The information contradicts previous studies conducted in Idaho. “The Idaho estimates differed from our summer estimates by as much as 365 percent in terms of frequency of killing and 538 percent in terms of prey biomass,” Knopff wrote. “Because kill rate fundamentally influences the effect predators have on their prey, the discrepancy between studies represents a substantial difference in the capacity for cougars to impact ungulates.”...more

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