Snowy mountains in Colorado with blooming wild flowers at the base.
 
Photo of lion in cage trap.

COLORADO COUGAR SCIENCE AND RESEARCH

Mule deer studies are planning to kill hundreds of mountain lions.

Mountain lion research in Colorado is generally conducted by researchers out of Colorado State University, Fort Collins or Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Research papers under strict copyright protection may only list their abstracts here. But if you would like a personal copy of the full paper to read, please contact MLF.

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Colorado Cougar Science

In 2003, partly due to efforts on the part of Colorado-based conservationists, CPW hired one of the nations preeminent mountain lion researchers, Dr. Ken Logan, to design and undertake a comprehensive study of mountain lions in Colorado. One of the problems Dr. Logan faced was the high mortality rate of the study's base-line (mountain lions). For example, as part of Dr. Logan's study, the Umcompahgre Plateau Area was closed to hunting. Despite this precaution, out of the original 41 mountain lions collared with radio monitors, 50 percent were killed within the first 5 years. Eleven of these died as a result of illegal activities.

The following are mountain lion research projects listed on Colorado Parks and Wildlife's website as of May 2010:


Puma Population Structure and Vital Rates on the Uncompahgre Plateau

Dr. Ken Logan

This project was initiated in 2004 to assess the impacts of hunting on puma. During the first 5 years of the project, hunting of puma will not be allowed within a large portion of the Uncompahgre Plateau located in western Colorado near the city of Montrose. During this non-hunting period, mountain lions will be captured and collared with GPS or VHF radio-collars to establish sex and age structure of the population and basic patterns of puma movements, distribution, habitat use, survival, reproduction, and sources of mortality. Additionally, techniques to estimate population density in localized areas will be evaluated. Similar monitoring of population status is projected to continue after hunting of puma resumes in 2009.


Mountain Lion Demographics and Human Interaction along the Urban-Exurban Front Range of Colorado

Dr. Mat Alldredge

This project was initiated in 2007 to better understand the interactions between humans and mountain lions along the highly urbanized Front Range of Colorado and to develop and evaluate effective management prescriptions that may help sustain mountain lions in this human dominated landscape. The initial phase of this project concentrated on capturing mountain lions and placing GPS telemetry collars on adult mountain lions to document basic movements of mountain lions and their use of prey. Additionally, collared mountain lions that become involved in interactions with humans will potentially be subjected to a variety of aversive conditioning techniques to evaluate whether the behavior of such mountain lions could be changed to encourage mountain lions to avoid conflicts with humans. The project is anticipated to span several years and reach full-scale efforts in 2009.


Mountain Lion DNA Technique Evaluation

Dr. Mat Alldredge in cooperation Jerry Apker, Statewide Carnivore Manager, and Chuck Anderson.

This project was initiated in 2007 to evaluate field techniques to use microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA to assess the meta-population status of mountain lions through out Colorado and to use DNA as a marker in capture-recapture efforts to estimate mountain lion densities in localized areas. A tooth will be obtained from all mountain lions harvested in Colorado. The tooth will provide estimates of mountain lion ages and provide a source of high quality DNA. DNA will be analyzed to assess whether several or few genetic subpopulations of mountain lions exist across Colorado and to establish genetic relationships between Colorado's mountain lions and mountain lions in adjacent states. To date, based on 2-years of data, analysis of DNA characteristics suggest mountain lions are comprised of one large meta-population across the western 2/3 of the state and appear to display less genetic statewide genetic variation than bears, indicating considerable mixing of mountain lion DNA across large geographic areas, presumably by male mountain lions dispersing when young. Additionally, captive mountain lions are providing the experimental opportunity to assess whether the quality and persistence of useable DNA in mountain lion fecal samples subjected to the variances of temperature and moisture in the field will allow using DNA to identify individual mountain lions for potential field applications of genetic mark/recapture. Further DNA sampling is planned for 1 or 2 more years to confirm statewide meta-population results.

Food for Thought

Records show that Colorado's human population is currently growing by about one million people every decade (275 people per day). Because many of these new residents will end up living on or near the Front Range of the Rockies the following comments are poignantly appropriate.

According to Bob Davies, senior terrestrial biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, "It's up to people to decide [how] to manage our lives to accommodate these wild beings. In the West, the bulk of their habitat is probably relatively secure, in the public domain--national forests, BLM lands, state parks, state wildlife areas, etcetera. . . . However, there is a lot of development that tends to perforate and fragment that habitat that puts people in close proximity with those large carnivores. We will continue to impact them because more people will be living in puma habitat than ever before in the history of humanity."


ON AIR: Marc Bekoff on Culling Lions

11/10/15 An Audio Interview with Julie West, MLF Broadcaster

In this edition of our audio podcast ON AIR, MLF Volunteer Broadcaster Julie West interviews Marc Bekoff. Marc discusses Colorado's unscientific plan to hunt more mountain lions in the hopes it will increase deer and elk herds. The conversation goes beyond wildlife management to take a deeper look at how we view, value and treat all other animals who share this planet. Perhaps it's time we all stop and analyze the killing of animals from an ethical perspective.

Killing Mountain Lions to Grow Mule Deer

10/01/15 Guest Commentary by Marc Bekoff

Animal expert and biology professor Marc Bekoff discusses Colorado's misguided plan to kill mountain lions in the hope it will increase deer populations. Though it may seem like less predators would yield more prey, there is no science to back the state's plan. In fact, killing large numbers of mountain lions causes chaos and increases ecological problems. Please contact the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission and urge them to vote against this plan which would cause significant and widespread collateral damage.

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