Arizona Lion Science
Arizona Urban Mountain Lion Study
In this north-central Arizona study, AZGFD investigated the distribution, movement, and survival of mountain lions within a 1,200 km2 area of land near the community of Payson, and within a 4,600 km2 area of land near the community of Prescott during 2006 and 2007. The objective of the study was to determine distribution and movements of mountain lions in these hunted populations within residential-urbanized and wildland areas. Additionally, AZGFD wanted basic insights into the following questions on how mountain lions use residential-urbanized areas:
1) Do lions enter them frequently?
2) Do lions explore these areas briefly, and then leave?
3) Do lions just move through them?
4) Do lions use these areas as part of their normal habitats?
As part of the study, 18 mountain lions (5 females, 13 males) were captured and fitted with a GPS telemetry collar equipped with a pre-programmed timed-release mechanism and mortality-sensing option, allowing the collars to be retrieved. Study animals were then immediately released. Marked animals were located continually by ground telemetry, with GPS fix location data uploaded from a fixed-wing aircraft one or two times per month. Five of the study lions (2 female, 3 male) occupied only wildland habitat. Twelve of the study lions (2 female, 10 male) associated with residential-urbanized areas.
According to this study, individual mountain lions seem to be highly variable in their use of residential-urbanized areas. Mountain lions entered some residential-urbanized areas frequently, explored some briefly and left, simply moved through some, and used others as part of their normal habitats. However, one fact became quite apparent. Despite extensive or occasional use of residential-urbanized habitats by marked mountain lions, local human residents seldom reported encounters or sightings, except when a lion was killed by hunters or a vehicle.
UA Wildcat Research and Conservation Center
The University of Arizona Wildcat Research and Conservation Center is dedicated to studying and conserving cat species across the globe. There are many projects that fall under this organization, such as:
1) Landscape genetic assessment of mountain lions in the southwestern U.S. This study used DNA from puma tissue and scat to examine the genetic structure of pumas living in the Desert Southwest. Researchers on this project created the Puma Genetic Database as a reference for future genetic research on mountain lions.
2) Monitoring the population status and connectivity between groups of mountain lions in the Tucson Mountains. This project uses techniques such as game cameras and track transects to detect and measure mountain lion activity.
3) Outreach and docent training programs in order to educate the public about mountain lions in the Tucson area.
Grand Canyon Research
Mountain lion research in the Grand Canyon National Park was carried conducted by Eric York before his tragic death in 2007. His work addressed many research questions, such as population size; home range size, shape, and location; wildlife crossing areas; mortality rates and sources; and predator-prey dynamics. The major research objectives were as follows:
1) Determining patterns in mountain lion behavior within human-populated areas.
2) Measuring mountain lion prey composition and predation rates.
3) Measuring the impact of anthropogenic features such as highways, human developments, and manmade water sources on mountain lion behavior and population size.