A study released April 1 by Panthera, a nonprofit group dedicated to conservation of large cats is making headlines for suggesting that deer populations might suffer because of hunting of mountain lions.
The study was conducted in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem between April 2012 and December 2016. During that time scientists visited 3,261
“clusters” for 13 pumas in the field, and documented 1,398 prey items and 120 incidents of scavenging.
The report gives some interesting insight into what the big cats prey upon. The scientists documented the following prey:
564 elk, 488 mule
deer, 85 North American porcupines, 43 bighorn sheep,
41 American beavers, 37 pronghorn, 26 coyotes, 12 ruffed
grouse, 10 red foxes, 10 striped skunks, 9 moose, 9 Yellowbellied marmots, 8 snowshoe hare, 8 trumpeter swans,
7 Northern raccoons, 5 white-tailed deer, 4 Canada geese,
3 American martens, 3 dusky grouse, 2 American badgers,
2 Barrow’s goldeneye, 2 North American red squirrels, 1 gray
wolf, 1 American black bear, 1 puma, 1 domestic sheep,
1 northern pocket gopher, 1 unknown small mammal,
1 unknown ungulate, 1 Great gray owl, 1 Great horned owl,
1 Common raven, 1 Sandhill crane, 1 unknown bird,
1 Black-billed magpie, 1 Dark-eyed junco, 1 Common
flicker, 1 Pine siskin, 1 American coot, 1 Mountain bluebird,
1 American robin, 1 Red-naped sapsucker.
The study concluded that age of the mountain lion often determined the prey, with older lions hunting bigger game. The report surmises that if cougar hunting results in fewer older cats, the younger population might instead target mule deer.
The study can be read here in its entirety: https://bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com/jhnewsandguide.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/51/a51550a3-765f-53ce-b8fb-70b4da775824/5ca42e24d0872.pdf.pdf
The Jackson Hole News and Guide wrote an article on the report here: https://www.jhnewsandguide.com/news/environmental/article_d1a8a3ab-8f96-5875-8416-d743ad9bd3d7.html
Pathera’s Puma Director weighs in here: https://www.panthera.org/blog/2019/04/01/could-puma-hunting-be-hurting-mule-deer