Colorado cougars routinely traverse urban areas, study finds

I thought this was an interesting story about wildlife not behaving exactly the way scientists predicted nor we thought. There is a pattern this week which I’ll follow up on with a few more posts. Humility, for all of us, when talking about what we know about biology, is always a good thing. Here’s the link in the Denver Post.

BOULDER — AF69, a 90-pound female cougar, makes a healthy living on human habitat — stalking, eating and hiding deer around houses — usually when people aren’t looking.

But one day, while she was dragging a dead doe past a front door west of Boulder, homeowner Ian Morris caught AF69 on his camera — first as he peered through his screen door, then over two days as she cached her kill under grass clippings and periodically gorged.

“I wondered what she could see,” Morris said. “Could she see me? Would that be a good thing? We’re told that we should avoid any contact, which will make the animal more confident in approaching humans.”

He notified the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, and wildlife researcher Mat Alldredge came and darted the cougar. Now AF69 is being tracked, along with 61 others, as part of a study that finds cougars may be living much closer to people than previously believed.

State researchers say AF69’s adaptive lifestyle, including regular night forays into the western edge of Boulder, reflects an emerging pattern for many of Colorado’s estimated 3,500 cougars. GPS tracking shows cougars at hundreds of locations near Front Range​ neighborhoods.

For example, during one week last month, AF69 was located at three spots near Broadway in Boulder between dusk and 2 a.m.

Tracking data also detail AF69’s move that week from foothills north of Boulder Canyon to a neighborhood where she killed a young buck, which she cached under a conifer tree near a house, covering it with landscaping mulch and pine needles.

“The interesting thing is that she’s living in these neighborhoods but she is rarely seen,” Alldredge said. “By and large, this cat is making a living in the urban-exurban environment. She’s killing deer. She’s doing the best she can in this area where she was born and raised. Part of the city is her home range.”

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