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Macrohabitat selection by Vancouver Island cougar (puma concolor vancouverensis) Goh, Karen M.L.

Abstract

I examined macrohabitat selection by cougars (Puma concolor vancouverensis) on Vancouver Island between May 1997 and May 1999. During this period, 1285 locations were gathered from 9 female adult cougars using VHF radio telemetry collars. I assessed selection in the context of the ecology of their major prey Columbian black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus), and hunting cover. I used a logistic regression model, and found seasonal and annual differences in habitat selection. Cougars tended to use mid elevations (ca. 390 m), and were closer to edges (ca. 150 m) than expected randomly. Year round, cougars showed selection for proximity to Old Growth, and Young forests. During winter, cougars avoided Clearcuts. They also tended to stay in Second Growth and Mature forests, while remaining in proximity to Old Growth forests. During spring, cougars avoided areas of low percentage cover of understory. During summer, cougars focused on areas of high quantity deer forage, and avoided being in proximity to areas of low quantity deer forage. Cougar selected hunting cover that was advantageous to them, year round and seasonally. No selection occurred for slope, aspect, and distance to water. Management of cougars should focus on maintaining a large prey base and features of good cougar hunting cover through smaller cutblock operations, and to reduction of human disturbance through fewer cutblocks. Allocation of forested space around 1800 km² devoid of human activity may ameliorate conditions that cause cougar declines.

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