Movements, food habits, and helminth parasites of mountain lions in southwestern Texas



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Texas Tech University


Information on the behavior and ecology of mountain lions (Felis concolor) in Texas is limited. This study reports on aspects of the movements and food habits of lions from Big Bend National Park, in the Trans-Pecos Region of Texas. Eleven lions were captured and radio-collared, and their movements monitored by ground and aerial radio tracking during 1984 and 1985. Aerial tracking was conducted in 3, 20-day periods in March-April, July-August, and November, representing spring, summer, and winter seasons, respectively. Six of the lions (1 adult male, 5 adult females) were resident to the study area; each exhibited a single, continuous home area. The male's area encompassed 792.3 km^2. The average size of the female's areas was 159.3 km^2 (range 76.5-192.5 km^2). Size and degree of overlap of the female's areas varied with the habitat type (montane versus desert) in which the home areas were located.

An adult female transient and 3 dispersing juvenile lions (2 males, 1 female) also were collared. Movements of the collared lions, and resident and transient lions identified by track sign, indicated the resident population was socially organized, with home areas established and maintained through a system of land tenure. No significant seasonal differences were found in distances travelled, areas traversed, or elevations used by the lions.

Lion food habits were determined by analysis of 54 6 scat and evaluation of 89 lion kills. Carmen Mountains white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus carmeni), desert mule deer (Q. hemionus crooki), and collared peccary (Tayassu tajacu) were the primary prey of the lions. Frequency of occurrence of primary prey in scat was similar to levels reported 4 years prior to this study. Based on estimates of lion numbers and the relative abundance of the 3 primary prey species, lions appeared to be limiting the abundance of white-tailed deer. Lion predation also may have retarded increase in mule deer numbers, but abundance of peccary remained stable.

In addition, a survey was conducted on helminth parasites of mountain lions from 4 counties in southwestern Texas. Nine nematode and 2 cestode species were recovered from the viscera of 53 lions. The distribution patterns of the common (>20% prevalence) helminth species (Taenia omissa, PhysalQptera praeputiaiis, E. rara, Cylicospirura subaequalist, Ancylostoma tubaeforme, Toxascaris leonina/ Metathalazia californica, and Vogeloides felis) were overdispersed and did not change across host age or sex. Abundances of the common helminth species are examined relative to sex, and age group of the lions. Significant differences were found for abundances of T. omissa, subaequalis, and Z. leonJna between age groups, and for T. omissa between sexes. Helminth communities from mountain lions in Texas, Oregon, and Florida were compared, showing only 2 of 29 species of helminths to be common to all 3 regions. Four of 17 species were common to lions from Texas and Oregon, and 2 of 21 species common to lions from Texas and Florida. New host records are reported for the occurrence of T. multiceps, P. praeputialis, Gnathostoma procyonis, A.tubaeforme, and Y. felis. Cylicospirura subaequalis is redescribed and compared to C- felineus a common species in the genus Lynx. In addition to previously described bifid versus trifid teeth in £. subaequalis and H. felineus. respectively, differences were noted in the length of spicules in males and the location of the vulva in females.



Puma -- Geographical distribution, Panthers -- Texas -- Big Bend Region, Puma -- Feeding and feeds, Puma -- Parasites -- Texas -- Big Bend Region, Helminths -- Texas -- Big Bend Region