The mountain lion is one of the least-studied of carnivores primarily because of research costs and the difficulty of capturing and tracking the animals. Technology and the use of GPS-fitted radio collars have helped researchers in their lion tracking efforts.
Two years into this study, after exhausting other methods, RMNP officials granted researchers' permission to use hounds to capture lions to affix radio collars on them for tracking. The use of hounds is the most successful capture method used by big cat researchers. We are pleased to report that researchers involved in this study have successfully collared and tracked four lions in and around RMNP and are documenting their behaviors and habits daily -- all in an effort to piece together knowledge of how they exist and fare around humans.
Some research results so far include:
- None of the four cats use RMNP exclusively -- private land is vital to a healthy population.
- Elk appear to be the primary diet.
- Researchers documented several long-distance cat migrations (including one near Evergreen and one south of Idaho Springs).
- There has been an increase in lion sightings over the past few years.
Home Range and Movement Map
NEW STUDY UNDERWAY INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP
RMCC also uses remote sensor cameras and lion track counts to estimate and monitor populations. The goals of this study are 1) to uses cameras in targeted areas to locate radio-collared lions whose collars may have failed; 2) establish methods of population estimation that can be used throughout the state; and 3) engage volunteers of all ages to assist in the camera surveys and track counts. This portion of our research will cost $10,000. We need the public’s help to make this important mountain lion research possible.
As you may know one of our objectives is to connect with other wild cat researchers to share information and learn more about capturing and tracking wild cats such as the mountain lion. Our team member Duggins Wroe will join Dr. Rodney Jackson, leading expert for snow leopard research, and Dr. B. Munkhtsog with the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, for a snow leopard study in western Mongolia beginning this spring! This long-term study (seven to 10 years) of snow leopard will take place in the Turgen Mountain Strictly Protected Area, a trans-boundary reserve in the Altay mountains, the northernmost major mountain range of the snow leopard. The project will include two major components: 1) telemetry studies for long term monitoring of snow leopard and climate data, and 2) multi-national training that includes sessions on field techniques, and workshops that define key monitoring parameters.
RMCC is promoting an extension of this study that would designate the snow leopard as a keystone indicator of climate change. As the world’s highest mammalian predator, we believe the snow leopard will suffer from the altitudinal warming of the earth’s highest mountains similar to the effect of latitudinal subsiding ice, which is putting polar bears at risk. RMCC is seeking supplemental funds of $50-75,000/year to expand this collaborative study in Mongolia, bringing world attention to climate change and the plight of this beautiful, endangered cat – the snow leopard. To help support this project send your donation to RMCC specifying “Mongolia Study.”