Mountain Lions Afraid Of Human Beings

Cougar Attack

As human beings, it’s natural to be afraid of predators such as mountain lions, however what we fail to understand is that they may be more afraid of us than we are of them. This shouldn’t come as a surprise because humans have hunted the mountain lion from most of the continental United States. In fact, according to studies, fatal attacks by puma’s on human are relatively rare. The puma which is also known as panther, cougar, or mountain lion often flee large deer prey that they have hunted once they have heard the sound of humans. In the latest study, scientists were able to show that puma’s response to the human voice was immediate and lasting.

Keeping track of mountain lions

Justine Smith who is a researcher at UC-Berkeley and her colleagues kept track of 17 mountain lions that had been fitted with radio collars. The team followed the animals to a spot in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Central California where they had killed a deer. They had installed a camera close to the spot that had the ability to play the sound of humans or a frog native to the area and recorded the results.

Pumas flee when they hear humans

In 83 per cent of cases, the mountain lions fled immediately with about half of those animals never returning to spot to finish feeding says Ms Smith. One animal that remained at the kill site did not run away was a very old male that died not long after the study was completed. It is believed the mountain lion may have been reluctant to leave because at his age it may have been much harder to catch a deer and he was therefore less willing to give it up.

Sounds played at random

The researchers played the tracks at the animals randomly, so the mountain lions either first heard the sound of a frog call or humans. The human clips that were played were of talk radio comprising of combative segments of both conservative and liberal talk show hosts says Ms Smith with a laugh. She noted that the animals appeared to be completely impartial.

 “Our intention was to test if pumas perceived humans directly as a predator, and… in almost every case pumas fled from the sound of humans. It’s conclusive evidence they do flee from humans, and shows they consider humans as predators. The hunter has long since become the hunted.” Smith said.

Humans are super predators

In the past, Ms Smith and her colleagues were able to show pumas spend less time feeding on a deer kill in suburban areas compared to rural areas, though they were able to actually kill more prey. The study classifies humans as super predators, a phrase which first emerged in a science paper which showed that humans kill other species at a rate not seen with other species. The most recent paper authored by Ms Smith adds further to evidence which suggests that human predatory behaviour influences even large carnivores which has an unknown effect on the ecosystem.

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