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, 63 (4), 357-362

Social Interactions in a Solitary Carnivore


Social Interactions in a Solitary Carnivore

L Mark Elbroch et al. Curr Zool.


In total, 177 of 245 terrestrial carnivores are described as solitary, and much of carnivore ecology is built on the assumptions that interactions between adult solitary carnivores are rare. We employed Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and motion-triggered cameras to test predictions of land-tenure territoriality and the resource dispersion hypothesis in a territorial carnivore, the puma Puma concolor. We documented 89 independent GPS interactions, 60% of which occurred at puma kills (n = 53), 59 camera interactions, 11 (17%) of which captured courtship behaviors, and 5 other interactions (1 F-F, 3 M-F, and 1 M-M). Mean minimum weekly contact rates were 5.5 times higher in winter, the season when elk Cervus elaphus were aggregated at lower elevations and during which puma courtship primarily occurred. In winter, contacts rates were 0.6 ± 0.3 (standard deviation (SD)) interactions/week vs. 0.1 ± 0.1 (SD) interactions/week during summer. The preponderance of interactions at food sources supported the resource dispersion hypothesis, which predicts that resource fluxes can explain temporary social behaviors that do not result in any apparent benefits for the individuals involved. Conspecific tolerance is logical when a prey is so large that the predator that killed it cannot consume it entirely, and thus, the costs of tolerating a conspecific sharing the kill are less than the potential costs associated with defending it and being injured. Puma aggregations at kills numbered as high as 9, emphasizing the need for future research on what explains tolerance among solitary carnivores.

Keywords: Puma concolor; carnivores; competition; resource dispersion hypothesis; social interactions; tolerance.


Figure 1.
Figure 1.
Characteristic hissing and posturing of adult female pumas Puma concolor meeting at a carcass.
Figure 2.
Figure 2.
Total interactions per month per marked puma Puma concolor, as determined with GPS data only, and camera data only. GPS and camera data are reported separately to emphasize the differences in what they captured. The time periods associated with aggregated elk Cervus elaphus and puma courtship (Elbroch et al. 2015) are overlaid in dark gray and light gray, respectively.

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