The Blog

Pumas feel the fear near humans

Justine’s recent paper in the Proceedings of Royal Society B received quite a bit of attention from the press.  Reports about it appeared in Science, Nature, BBC and the Naked Scientists among others.  Here’s snippet from Nature

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.

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Conservationists of the Year for 2014

The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County Board of Trustees named Dr. Jodi McGraw and Dr. Chris Wilmers Conservationists of the Year at an event on Sunday, October 5. The award was in recognition of their work in setting the priorities of the Land Trust and in educating the public about the natural resources that make Santa Cruz County special.

Read the full story here.

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Wild cats need to count calories, too

Science coverage or our – wait for it – article in Science.  With all the “coverage”, does any read the original article?

A sleek cheetah races with legs outstretched, leaping with a great burst of energy to bring down a fast-moving antelope. That iconic image of this African wild cat needs a footnote. The world’s fastest runner actually spends very little time and energy at full speed, a new study finds. Instead, its most strenuous activity is simply walking around in the hot sun, looking for potential prey. It’s much the same story for the cheetah’s American cousin, the puma, which spends more than twice as much energy locating prey than researchers had predicted.

Read the full coverage here and here.

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Cheetahs and pumas may have hunting strategies down to a science

Another nice article on our recent Science paper.  This one in the LA Times.

It’s not easy being a lean, mean killing machine. Whether a fleet-footed cheetah or a lie-in-wait puma, a hunting feline’s survival balances on the point between how much energy they lose in hunting for a meal and the energy they gain from actually eating it. Now, two new studies in the journal Science follow these big cats to find out how they make this lifestyle work.

Read the full article here.

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Pumas Trained to Run on Treadmill Help Explain Big Cat’s Ambush Strategy

A nice article in National Geographic on our recent Science paper on puma energetics.

The group, led by Terrie Williams and Chris Wilmers of the University of California, Santa Cruz, spent years working with engineers to develop a novel wildlife tracking collar to measure the energetics, movements and behaviors of animals in the wild. Energetic expenditure is the lifeblood of an animal, says Wilmers. “If they’re burning more calories than they’re consuming they’ll die. And without enough surplus calories, they’ll never reproduce successfully.”

Read the entire article here.

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Scientists highlight global importance of meat-eating mammals

Coverage in the Sentinel about our carnivore paper in Science today.

Two UC Santa Cruz ecologists are among the authors of a global review of large carnivore populations published Jan. 10 in the journal Science. The international group of scientists warns that declines in these key species have broad, and often surprising, effects on ecosystems that extend to humans.

Read the full story here.

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Sea Otters v. Climate Change

Another great NPR video on our Sea Otter – Climate change work…

When people talk about sea otters, the words “cute,” “cuddly,” and “curious” often come to mind. But now you can add another descriptor to that list — climate change fighters.

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Mountain lion who roamed downtown Santa Cruz killed on Highway 17

Santa Cruz’ famous downtown mountain lion was struck and killed while crossing Highway 17 early Thursday morning near Vine Hill Road.

The lion’s body was given to UC Santa Cruz researchers, who helped capture the wayward puma in June and fitted it with a tracking collar. The juvenile male crossed Highway 17 several times in the months since its downtown excursion.

“He may have just been exploring,” said Yiwei Wang, a UCSC doctoral candidate who works with the Santa Cruz Puma Project. “He was still pretty young.”

Read the full account here in the San Jose Mercury News

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Road Kill or Road Crossing: California Slow to Protect Wildlife

An NPR Quest radio piece about road crossings affecting our study animals. Listen below.

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Science on the SPOT: Chasing Pumas

Great NPR video documentary on our mountain lion – habitat fragmentation study

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