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Habitat diversity influences puma (Puma concolor) diet in the Chihuahuan Desert

October 15, 2021

Habitat heterogeneity and corresponding diversity in potential prey species should increase the diet breadth of generalist predators. Many previous studies describing puma Puma concolor diets in the arid regions of the southwestern United States were focused within largely xeric locations, overlooking the influence of heterogeneity created by riparian forests. Such habitat heterogeneity and corresponding prey diversity could influence prey availability and puma diet composition. We examined seasonal prey composition of pumas occupying areas with different habitat conditions representing riparian areas adjacent to the Rio Grande and xeric Chihuahuan Desert uplands in southern New Mexico. We collected prey composition data from 686 kill sites made by 17 (9 males and 8 females) GPS-collared pumas from 2014 to 2018. Diet composition included 32 different avian, aquatic, small mammal, and ungulate prey species. Prey composition varied, with more ungulate prey consumed by pumas inhabiting the upland desert areas and more aquatic prey consumed in the riparian bosque. Prey composition differed between seasons, with ungulate prey decreasing and aquatic prey increasing during the hot–dry season. Prey composition also varied between puma sex and habitat with females in the desert uplands consuming more small mammals than either males or females in riparian areas. The diverse diets of the pumas inhabiting the heterogeneous landscapes in southern New Mexico provide additional evidence that pumas have broad diets that are strongly influenced by the habitat and prey community that their home range encompasses.

Publication Year 2021
Title Habitat diversity influences puma (Puma concolor) diet in the Chihuahuan Desert
DOI 10.2981/wlb.00875
Authors Charles H. Prude, James W. Cain
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Wildlife Biology
Index ID 70229463
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Seattle