Mountain lions prey selectively on prion-infected mule deer

Biol Lett. 2010 Apr 23;6(2):209-11. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2009.0742. Epub 2009 Oct 28.


The possibility that predators choose prey selectively based on age or condition has been suggested but rarely tested. We examined whether mountain lions (Puma concolor) selectively prey upon mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) infected with chronic wasting disease, a prion disease. We located kill sites of mountain lions in the northern Front Range of Colorado, USA, and compared disease prevalence among lion-killed adult (> or =2 years old) deer with prevalence among sympatric deer taken by hunters in the vicinity of kill sites. Hunter-killed female deer were less likely to be infected than males (odds ratios (OR) = 0.2, 95% confidence intervals (CI) = 0.1-0.6; p = 0.015). However, both female (OR = 8.5, 95% CI = 2.3-30.9) and male deer (OR = 3.2, 95% CI = 1-10) killed by a mountain lion were more likely to be infected than same-sex deer killed in the vicinity by a hunter (p < 0.001), suggesting that mountain lions in this area actively selected prion-infected individuals when targeting adult mule deer as prey items.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Colorado / epidemiology
  • Deer*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Predatory Behavior / physiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Puma / physiology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Wasting Disease, Chronic / epidemiology*