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Birth Timing for Mountain Lions; Testing the Prey Availability Hypothesis

Brian D. Jansen and Jonathan A. Jenks; September 24, 2012

We investigated potential advantages in birth timing for mountain lion (Puma concolor) cubs. We examined cub body mass, survival, and age of natal dispersal in relation to specific timing of birth. We also investigated the role of maternal age relative to timing of births. We captured mountain lion cubs while in the natal den to determine birth date, which allowed for precise estimates of the population birth pulse and age of natal dispersal. A birth pulse occurred during June–August. Body mass of cubs was related to litter size and timing of birth; heaviest cubs occurred in litters of 2, and those born after 1 July. Cubs born within pulse months exhibited similar survival to those born out of the pulse. We found that cubs born April–June dispersed at younger ages than those born after 1 July. There was less variation in birth timing for 1st litters of females than older females. We hypothesize that cubs born after the peak in births of neonate prey are advantaged by the abundance of vulnerable prey and those cubs and mothers realize an evolutionary advantage.

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