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As wolves expand range, mountain lions keep their distance, study shows

Jun 24, 2014 - The Associated Press

Female cats in particular select home ranges that have prey and that are distanced from wolves.

JACKSON -- Mountain lions go out of their way to avoid wolves, according to new research done in northwest Wyoming.

The research conducted by the Teton Cougar Project finds that the cats in Jackson Hole spend a disproportionate amount of time in parts of their territory that are far from wolves and tend to distance themselves from wolves.

"If you look at what's called the core home range, it tends to be farther from wolves than the rest of their home range," said Patrick Lendrum, a biologist and the lead author of the study that was published in the Journal of Zoology in late May.

Individual mountain lions frequent the core areas within their home ranges the most, Lendrum said.

Because wolves select top-tier territories with the most available prey, subordinate mountain lions are being pushed away from the most productive parts of the landscape, Cougar Project team leader Mark Elbroch said.

"There is a reduction in habitat in the sense that they are prioritizing habitat differently," Elbroch said.

Female cats in particular select home ranges that have prey and that are distanced from wolves, he said. That's also the case with males, which occupied home ranges 1.9 to 3.3 times larger than the females, according to the study.

"Spatial displacement between wolves and cougars has been noted in several other studies," the paper said. "This, no doubt, limits the availability of quality habitat in the Southern Yellowstone Ecosystem, which has implications for juvenile cougar survival, juvenile dispersal success and overall cougar population dynamics."

The study, which used 11 years of GPS and high-frequency data from 28 collared animals, also concluded that mountain lion home ranges did not definitely increase or decrease in size based on the availability of prey or the percentage of the habitat that was forested.

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