Mountain Lion Drinkers
Do Artificial Drinkers Affect Mountain Lion Movements and Geographical Distribution?
A Pilot Study
Hunter Prude1, Jim Sanderson2, Ron Thompson3, E.D. Edwards1 and Grant Harris4*
1 N.M. Ranch Properties, HC 32 Box 19, Truth or Consequences NM 87901
2 Wild Cat Conservation Unit, University of Arizona, 325 BioSciences East, Tucson, AZ, 85721
3 Borderlands Research Institute, Sul Ross State University, Alpine, TX, 79832
4 United States Fish and Wildlife Service, 500 Gold St SW, Albuquerque, NM 87103
* Project contact (505-248-6817 firstname.lastname@example.org)
For over half a century, State and Federal management agencies have built and supplied sources of artificial water in desert ecosystems (hereafter "drinkers") (Russo 1956, Wright 1959, Blong and Pollard 1968, Broyles 1995). These drinkers were built primarily to benefit ungulates (Smith and Krausman 1988, Wakeling et al. 2009). The assumption is that supplied water attenuates the natural variation in surface water in arid environments (Broyles 1995, Krausman et al. 2006). Therefore, supplemented water improves desert ungulates’ health and longevity by reducing death from dehydration or increasing their abilities to metabolize forage (Campbell and Remington 1979). Ultimately, the goal is for drinkers to increase ungulate population sizes (Werner 1989, Wakeling et al. 2009).
In the Chihuahua desert of the southwestern USA, drinkers are often constructed to benefit desert bighorn sheep and deer. However, there is concern that drinkers might generate an unintended consequence of increased predation. Carnivores such as mountain lions, unlike ungulates, require surface water to drink, since they cannot obtain water metabolically (Wolff 2001). Therefore, adding drinkers into desert landscapes may encourage mountain lions to establish in geographical locations that they might not inhabit otherwise. This situation could facilitate mountain lion predation on sheep. Clearly, more science is required to inform the management of water, ungulates and mountain lions in desert ecosystems.
1) Conduct a pilot study that evaluates the potential for drinkers to modify the behavior of mountain lions, in ways that could be detrimental towards managing desert bighorn sheep.
Quantify mountain lion movement patterns, habitat use, kill rates, kill locations, species killed and amount of time spent within the Fra Cristobal mountains during two disparate time periods: 1) When mountain lions have access to drinkers and 2) When mountain lions lack access to drinkers.
Snare and GPS collar 5 mountain lions at Armendaris Ranch. We plan to use ATS iridium/GPS collars (Iridium G2110E), which provide GPS locations via email on a daily basis. The collar schedules are programmable by the user, and the schedule can be adjusted remotely. We propose to have collars record GPS fixes on an hourly schedule.
Captures will be conducted by the staff of Armendaris ranch. Mountain lions will be immobilized with reversible immobilization. All capture procedures will follow established protocols (Appendix 1).
A primary goal of Armendaris Ranch is to generate a large, healthy herd of desert bighorn sheep. Therefore, any of the mountain lions with GPS collars affixed may be killed at any time, based on the Ranch's discretion. For example, the amount of sheep kills made by mountain lions may be intolerable, or mountain lions could be posing human safety concerns. Collars removed from mountain lions will be placed on other mountain lions snared during the course of this study. The assumption will be that mountain lions respond to drinkers similarly.
GPS data from mountain lions will be downloaded daily by staff of Armendaris Ranch and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Kill locations will be identifiable by clusters of mountain lion GPS locations. Armendaris staff will visit these kill sites at the earliest opportunity to identify the species killed. Data are recorded on a kill site form (Appendix 2 - separate attachment).
The GPS location data will be analyzed by staff at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, in close partnership with project collaborators. Analyses will evaluate the following three metrics: 1) Movement patterns which includes distances traveled and movement rates. 2) Habitat use based on topographic variables and distances from drinkers, 3) Time budgets, namely the amount of time spent in different geographical locations (on and off the Ranch).
Data describing the amount of kills, species killed and the three metrics above, will be compared between periods describing when mountain lions had access to drinkers and when they did not.
For this study, we focus on 5 drinkers located at Armendaris Ranch: Chalk Gap, Eagle Rock, Massacre Gap, Top of the Mountain and the Release Site. Each of these drinkers receives use by desert bighorn sheep, mule deer and mountain lions.
The focus of the study is to evaluate if denying lion access to water changes their behavior. This may be done by using drinkers with grates or simply covering existing drinkers so that nothing has access. The use of either system will be at the option of the ranch staff.
The grate system is being tested. The design is a metal grate placed over the drinker, which permits ungulates access to water, as their relatively narrower and longer snouts can fit between the grate. This design should allow sheep and deer to access water, but not mountain lions. Mountain lions, with flatter faces, cannot reach the water below. The devise was designed by the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center in Scottsdale, Arizona, and successfully tested on mountain lions in captivity.
Each of the drinkers has a remote camera operating on site. The motion sensor on the camera takes photographs of mammals visiting each drinker. Therefore, if we observe that ungulates are unable to utilize water, or that mountain lions can, then the ranch may adjust the device, change it, or remove it accordingly.
Our procedure will evaluate mountain lion movements until a lion seems to have an established pattern of use. This pattern could be a lion either frequenting a given drinker, or a set of drinkers in an area. Once this pattern is observed, we will either block or place a grate over the drinker(s). The treatment is then deployed. Subsequently, we monitor, and model, changes in mountain lion movements, behavior and geographical locations as described above.
We anticipate beginning this project in mid-April 2013. Each GPS collar will last approximately 300 days. Our camera trapping effort at Armendaris demonstrates no seasonal pattern in mountain lion use of drinkers. Therefore, we plan to cycle through collars continuously throughout the year, until collar life is complete. We expect it to require a few months to a year+ to fix all 5 collars on mountain lions. Therefore, we anticipate the collaring portion of the study to end by Fall of 2014, and the GPS tracking to end in 2015. Data analyses will be concluded a year afterwards.
March 2013: Begin deploying GPS collars on mountain lions
Summer 2013+ : Identify movement patterns of collared mountain lions and bar mountain lion access to drinkers.
Spring 2015: GPS portion of study ends.
Spring 2016: Final report of project findings completed.
Blong, B., and W. Pollard. 1968. Summer water requirements of desert bighorn in the Santa Rose Mountains, California, in 1965. California Fish and Game Journal 54:289–296.
Broyles, B. 1995. Desert wildlife water developments: Questioning use in the southwest. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 23: 663-674.
Campbell, B. H., and Remington, R. 1979. Bighorn use of artificial water sources in the Buckskin Mountains, Arizona. Desert Bighorn Council Transactions 23: 50-56.
Krausman, P.R., Rosenstock, S.S., and Cain III, J.W. 2006. Developed waters for wildlife: Science, perception, values and controversy. Wildlife Society Bulletin 34: 563-569.
Russo J. P. 1956. The desert bighorn in Arizona. Arizona Game and Fish Department Wildlife Bulletin 1:1-153.
Smith, N. S. and P. R. Krausman. 1988. Desert bighorn sheep: a guide to selected management practices. United States Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Report 88(35), Washington, D.C., USA.
Wakeling, B.F., Lee, R., Brown, D., Thompson, R., Tluczek, M., and M. Weisenberger. 2009. The restortaion of desert bighorn sheep in the Southwest, 1951-2007: factors influencing success. Desert Bighorn Council Transactions 50: 1 - 17.
Werner, W. 1989. Water Development. Pages 161-175 in R.E. Lee editor. The desert bighorn sheep in Arizona. Arizona Game and Fish Department, Phoenix.
Wolff, F. 2001. Vertebrate ecology in catinga: A. Distribution of wildlife in relation to water B. Diet of pumas (Puma concolor) and relative abundance of felids. University of Missouri-St. Louis graduate thesis.
Wright, J. T. 1959. Desert wildlife. Arizona Game and Fish Department Wildlife Bulletin 6, Phoenix, USA.
Armendaris Ranch Mountain Lion Capture Protocol (02/22/2012)
This protocol is to be used for lions captured with a foot snare or hounds. If a lion is captured with hounds the lion should not have jumped from a bayed position more than twice or captured on the ground. If so, do not immobilize. Start with project capture form. Estimate weight of lion. Draw up antagonist (Atipamezole) first and place in protective tube. Calculate the amount of Atipamezole at a dosage of 4:1 of drug.
This is for the health and safety of the biologist and animal. Make sure you have enough to additionally administer to yourself if needed.
Load capture dart with appropriate amounts of capture drugs Ketamine and Medetomidine (DO NOT USE TELEZOL ON FELIDS!):
Ketamine is calculated at 5.0 mg/kg and .08 mg/kg Medetomidine. Reversal is Atipamezole at a dose of 4:1.
(Note the extra “0” for the calculations)
Determine distance to lion and dart lion. Pace off same distance and use a practice dart to evaluate the power of the delivery force of your capture tools.
1. Note time that drug is administered and time that lion succumbs to drug on data sheet. Document lion’s reaction to the drugs on data sheet.
2. Lay lion on its side opposite the dart wound. If lion is having difficulty breathing, then position the lion sternally. In hot weather, move lion to shady area; cool lion periodically with water if necessary. In cold weather, place lion on reflective ground sheet and move to sheltered area. Use a rectal thermometer to maintain the lion’s body temperature between 98 degrees and 103 degrees Fahrenheit. If a lion ceases to breath, immediately stick a syringe needle into the septum of the nose to activate an involuntary single inhalation response. This may or may not result in continued respiration.
3. Administer artificial tears ointment to eyes and/or place blindfold on lion. Remove dart and clean debris from wound if present with water and gauze before applying iodine and/or spraying with antibacterial spray. Treat any other cuts and injuries the same. If lion has extensive injuries, administer penicillin IM at 1 cc/ 20 lbs of body weight.
4. Evaluate heart rate, respiration, and temperature.
a. Heart rate (beats/min): 55-65
b. Respiration (per min): 18-22
c. Temperature (degrees): 101 F
Note: These are normal physiological parameters. Chemical immobilization will change things, so some variation off these numbers is to be expected.
5. Sex and age lion – if the lion is the 1st male captured, then mark TXM01 at top of data sheet; if it is the 1st female captured then mark TXF01 at top of data sheet, and so on.
6. Collect DNA sample. Rub swab firmly up and down on inside of cheek 5–6 times, and then place in sealed container. Mark tube with your initials, date, and lion ID number (e.g., M01, F01, etc.).
7. Take multiple photos of 1) body (full body shots, scars, wounds, etc), 2) teeth, and 3) sex characteristics. Do not stand far back when taking pictures! Get as close as possible. Ask yourself, “Am I close enough to get good detail?”
8. Monitor heart rate, respiration, and temperature again. Cool lion if needed.
a. Heart rate (beats/min): 55-65
b. Respiration (per min): 18-22
c. Temperature (degrees): 101 F
9. Lay lion on its right side, and place an initialized GPS collar (with GPS antennae up) on an adult lion – note serial number on data sheet (radio frequency should be marked on the data sheet in the field). REMOVE THE MAGNET FROM THE VHF transmitter BEFORE PLACING ON LION!
10. Apply ear tag to any animal not receiving a transmitter– use sequential numbers for males and females as provided by the Department.
a. Make sure use also use a DO NOT CONSUME ear tag in conjunction with a numbered tag!
b. Mark this information on the data sheet!!
11. Take GPS location of capture site (datum = NAD WGS 83). Document on data sheet.
12. Check data sheet – has sheet been filled out accurately and completely? Is there any additional information that should be noted on the data sheet? Where did lion tree? Bluffs, juniper, pinyon, ponderosa pine, etc.
13. Remove blindfold and administer antagonist 50% subcutaneously and 50% IM. Record time (military time) that antagonist is administered and time that lion gets up - document on data sheet. Remain quiet and still until lion recovers. Document lion’s reaction to the antagonist on the data sheet. Make sure lion has sufficiently recovered before leaving area.
14. Make sure all equipment is accounted for prior to leaving the capture site. Dispose of used syringes, needles, and dart as medical waste.
15. Refrigerate or freeze DNA sample. Place all DNA samples together in a single Zip-Loc bag. Don’t just throw them individually in the refrigerator or freezer.