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PLoS One. 2013 Apr 17;8(4):e60590. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060590. Print 2013.

Scale dependent behavioral responses to human development by a large predator, the puma.

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Environmental Studies Department, Center for Integrated Spatial Research, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California, United States of America.


The spatial scale at which organisms respond to human activity can affect both ecological function and conservation planning. Yet little is known regarding the spatial scale at which distinct behaviors related to reproduction and survival are impacted by human interference. Here we provide a novel approach to estimating the spatial scale at which a top predator, the puma (Puma concolor), responds to human development when it is moving, feeding, communicating, and denning. We find that reproductive behaviors (communication and denning) require at least a 4× larger buffer from human development than non-reproductive behaviors (movement and feeding). In addition, pumas give a wider berth to types of human development that provide a more consistent source of human interference (neighborhoods) than they do to those in which human presence is more intermittent (arterial roads with speeds >35 mph). Neighborhoods were a deterrent to pumas regardless of behavior, while arterial roads only deterred pumas when they were communicating and denning. Female pumas were less deterred by human development than males, but they showed larger variation in their responses overall. Our behaviorally explicit approach to modeling animal response to human activity can be used as a novel tool to assess habitat quality, identify wildlife corridors, and mitigate human-wildlife conflict.

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