Ecology

Pumas feel the fear near humans

Journal name:
Nature
Volume:
517,
Page:
531
Date published:
DOI:
doi:10.1038/517531b
Published online

Female pumas that live near human populations hunt more often but spend less time eating their prey than do those in less populated areas.

Humans can cause declines in wildlife populations, but their effect on animal behaviour is less well understood. Justine Smith and her colleagues at the University of California, Santa Cruz, tagged 30 pumas (Puma concolor) in California and tracked their movements in areas with four different densities of human housing. They found that at kill sites near the most densely populated areas, female pumas spent 42% less time consuming their prey than those in the least populated regions. To compensate, the females in the more developed habitats killed 36% more deer.

Fear of humans is probably driving this behavioural change, which could have further ecosystem effects, such as boosting scavenger populations and even compromising the reproductive health of female pumas, the authors speculate.

Proc. R. Soc. B 282, 20142711 (2015)

Additional data