Living with Large Carnivores: Insights from Diet Choice, Habitat Use, and the Ecology of Fear
thesisposted on 13.12.2012, 00:00 by Leah S. Simoni
This thesis focuses on large carnivore behavior in hopes to understand how humans and large carnivores can coexist. Carnivore behavior is examined through diet choice, habitat selection, and the ecology of fear. The first chapter examines a proposed mechanism of coexistence among carnivores with pumas (Puma concolor) and jaguars (Panthera onca) as my focal system. I proposed carnivores may coexistence due to a tradeoff in the ability to catch agile prey items and the ability to safely subdue more dangerous prey. I developed a mathematical model, analyzed published diet studies, and examined historic range maps to test the validity of the mechanism of coexistence. I found that all three lines of investigation supported a mechanism of coexistence along a dangerous-agile gradient of the prey for carnivores. The second chapter examines current and historic puma attacks on humans. I examined published attacks on humans in 12 states from 1890 – 2010. Attack propensity was examined in relation to human density, livestock density, and occurrence of puma hunting. I found puma attacks on humans increase significantly with an increase in human density. Furthermore, with an increase in human density, puma attacks decreased significantly with an increase in livestock density. Sport hunting of pumas had no affect on the propensity of puma attacks on humans. The final chapter examines temporal and spatial distribution of coyotes (Canis latrans) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the Chicago metropolitan area. Distributions were examined through camera data collected from 2010 and 2011 by the Urban Wildlife Institute. I found that both coyotes and deer were negatively associated with an increase in housing density and positively associated with an increase in canopy cover. Deer also exhibited a positive association with water and coyotes.