Mountain lions are generally wary of humans, and attacks are exceptionally rare. But new research suggests that when they are hungry, the cats throw caution to the wind and are likely to hunt in residential neighborhoods — and stay there if the hunting is good.
A new study by Colorado State University and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, used GPS tracking collars and camera traps to monitor lions near the fringes of Denver and Boulder. While well-fed lions steered clear of dense housing developments, those that had gone four to seven days without a kill had no problem moving through backyards and dense neighborhoods.
“This study contributes to a growing body of evidence indicating that an animal’s energetic state is very important in the decision-making process; animals will make riskier choices when hunger beckons,” researcher Kevin Blecha said in a news release.
Camera trap footage also indicated that prey is increasingly more abundant in residential areas as development spreads into the mountains, and lions are thus likely to have more success hunting near homes. With the approach of spring, when prey is less plentiful, it’s a recipe for more human contacts with lions — and potentially more conflict.
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Source:: The Denver Post