Habitat use and diet of coastal carnivores: a preliminary study at the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve

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National Geographic Society
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Ecology and Evolution

The Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve protects 25,000 acres of immense ecological importance. Researchers in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy have been building ideas for environmental science research as a launchpad for innovative wildlife conservation strategies. We ultimately aim to conduct long-term research to observe, document, and find patterns of mountain lion feeding ecology, with special attention to predation of marine mammals on the coast. This will advance our understanding of the unique ecologies of carnivores in coastal protected areas, and provide a lifeline for carnivores throughout the region that are being forced to shift their habitats in response to climate change. This initial proposed project will provide preliminary data on mountain lion habitat use and die composition that will create the foundation for a long-term study. We aim to 1) use camera traps to understand the geo-spatial configuration of access points to the coast, 2) use scat analyses to glean the diet composition of mountain lions that use coastline, and 3) use camera traps to find potential capture sites for GPS collaring of mountain lions. We anticipate mountain lions will be observed using high-elevation trails along the perimeter of the Preserve to access the protected area, and using shallow corridors and dry creek-beds to access coastline. We also anticipate finding evidence of predation on marine mammals from scat contents.