Scale dependent behavioral responses to human development by a large predator, the puma

PLoS One. 2013 Apr 17;8(4):e60590. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060590. Print 2013.


The spatial scale at which organisms respond to human activity can affect both ecological function and conservation planning. Yet little is known regarding the spatial scale at which distinct behaviors related to reproduction and survival are impacted by human interference. Here we provide a novel approach to estimating the spatial scale at which a top predator, the puma (Puma concolor), responds to human development when it is moving, feeding, communicating, and denning. We find that reproductive behaviors (communication and denning) require at least a 4× larger buffer from human development than non-reproductive behaviors (movement and feeding). In addition, pumas give a wider berth to types of human development that provide a more consistent source of human interference (neighborhoods) than they do to those in which human presence is more intermittent (arterial roads with speeds >35 mph). Neighborhoods were a deterrent to pumas regardless of behavior, while arterial roads only deterred pumas when they were communicating and denning. Female pumas were less deterred by human development than males, but they showed larger variation in their responses overall. Our behaviorally explicit approach to modeling animal response to human activity can be used as a novel tool to assess habitat quality, identify wildlife corridors, and mitigate human-wildlife conflict.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • California
  • Female
  • Geography
  • Housing
  • Human Activities*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Movement
  • Predatory Behavior / physiology*
  • Puma / physiology*
  • Regression Analysis

Grant support

Funding was provided by NSF grant #0963022, as well as by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, UC Santa Cruz and the Felidae Conservation Fund. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.