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Movement Patterns of Mountain Lions during Different Behaviors

Paul Beier, David Choate, Reginald H. Barrett
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1382599 1056-1070 First published online: 4 December 1995


We used radiotracking and other observations to describe nocturnal movement patterns of mountain lions (Felis concolor) during six different behaviors and attempted to estimate behavior rates by inference from such patterns. When hunting, mountain lions apparently stalked or sat in ambush for periods averaging 0.7 h and then moved a mean distance of 1.4 km (over 1.2 h) to another area; this pattern repeated about six times on nights when no prey was killed. When a mammal was killed, this pattern was suspended until the carcass was consumed (4–6 h for a small mammal, 2–5 days for a large mammal). When feeding on a large mammal, mountain lions minimized spoilage and loss to scavengers by dragging the kill 0–80 m to a cache site, burying the carcass under leaves and debris during the daytime, and feeding only at night. Mountain lions increased the risk of loss to scavengers by locating diurnal rest sites up to 4.2 km ( = 400 m, SD = 787) from the carcass. Mating associations lasted 2–5 days, during which mountain lions traveled little, vocalized frequently, and apparently did not feed. Mothers of neonates hunted from dusk to midnight and then returned to the den; mothers spent increasing amounts of time at greater distances from the den during the first 8 weeks after giving birth. Dens were located in nearly impenetrable vegetation and den sites lacked feces, prey remains, or modifications of the site. On average, an adult mountain lion killed ca. 48 large and 58 small mammals/year and fed for an average of 2.9 days (SD = 1.1) on a single large mammal. Although movement patterns differed markedly among behaviors, discriminant functions failed to accurately predict behavior from movement patterns.

Key words
  • activity patterns
  • behavior
  • breeding behavior
  • diel patterns
  • Felis concolor
  • kill rates
  • mountain lion
  • movement patterns
  • radiotracking
  • southern California

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