Cougar Resource Selection in Two Mountain Ranges in Utah: A Study on Scale and Behavior
Date of Award:
Master of Science (MS)
R. Douglas Ramsey
An understanding of habitat relationships is essential for managing hunted species, such as cougar, that are difficult to census. In the first phase of this study, I used aerial telemetry data to examine diurnal cougar resource selection at 2 scales, and compared results between 2 study sites, the Oquirrh Mountains and Monroe Mountain, Utah. In the second phase of this study, I used conditional logistic regression models and GPS collar data from the Oquirrh Mountains to determine whether cougar resource selection varied over 3 behaviors (prey caching, resting at a daybed site, and nocturnal activities) and 2 scales.
Results from phase 1 indicated that in general, during diurnal hours cougars selected for woodland cover types, moderate to steep (20-70%) slopes, canyon and steep hillside landforms, and home ranges with a higher density of edge. However, selection for these resources was not consistent at both study sites, scales, or for every cougar. Small sample sizes and poor spatial accuracy of the aerial telemetry data likely precluded the ability to detect selection in every case.
Results from phase 2 indicated that cougar resource selection varied by behavior, and selection of some resources was detected only at certain scales. Cougar cache sites were characterized by southern and eastern aspects; lower elevation; avoidance of edge; a greater diversity of land cover types; canyon landforms (ridges were avoided); riparian, deciduous, and coniferous woodland; and deciduous and coniferous forest cover types. Cougars selected daybed sites that avoided western aspects and edges, were further from roads, closer to streams, higher in elevation, on moderate to steep slopes, and in rocky, deciduous woodland, and riparian cover types. During nocturnal activities, cougars avoided northern aspects, and selected areas that were closer to streams and roads, on edges and in canyon landforms, with gentler slopes, and rock, riparian, and deciduous woodland cover types. Results from cross-validation procedures confirmed that the models were reliable and predictive of cougar resource selection.
This study provides a comprehensive analysis of cougar resource selection over various scales and behaviors. Managers should use caution when using diurnal data to make conclusions about selection during other times of day or behaviors.
Rieth, Wendy R., "Cougar Resource Selection in Two Mountain Ranges in Utah: A Study on Scale and Behavior" (2010). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. Paper 698.
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