The famous Hollywood sign that rises on Mount Lee in Los Angeles (USA), witnesses the daily visit of thousands of tourists who pose for the cameras in search of the best photo to post on their social networks. But they are not the only ones who walk there. A study published in PLoS ONE reveals that pumas (Puma concolor) hunt near human settlements in Los Angeles, one of the only large cities where these feline predators live.
The females are the closest, until they are less than two kilometers from human settlements.
The authors, researchers at the University of California, conducted field observations and used GPS-powered collars to locate 26 mountain lions around the Santa Monica Mountains near Los Angeles.
Although the results show that both males and females tend to hunt close to human populations, females are the closest, down to less than two kilometers. Males, however, prefer to prey on deer that live near forest streams and rivers.
The authors suggest that females decide to hunt in more developed areas as part of a strategy to avoid encounters with aggressive males.
After its prey
The choice of hunting terrain reflects the areas where prey is most abundant. The main prey for pumas, the mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) is attracted to water sources and lush vegetation, as well as pools and gardens cultivated in human populations.
This approach of the deer to the cities causes the pumas to go in search of them and enter the populations.
The authors suggest that the hunting patterns of these cats reflect the balance between an aversion to areas of human settlement and an attraction to take advantage of these rich environments.
Understanding how big cats interact with the development of human populations helps, according to research, in planning strategies for the conservation of this species.
John F. Benson, Jeff A. Sikich, Seth P. D. Riley: "Individual and Population Level Resource Selection Patterns of Mountain Lions Preying on Mule Deer along an Urban-Wildland Gradient." PLOS ONE, 2016; 11 (7): e0158006 DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pone.0158006