Successful communication is critical to the fitness of individuals and maintenance of populations, but less is known regarding the social contexts and reactions to scent marking by other individuals in solitary carnivores, including pumas. We evaluated the responses of resident male pumas to visitation and scent marking by potential competitors (other male pumas) and potential mates (female pumas) by capturing and marking 46 pumas (Puma concolor), and documenting scent marking behaviours using motion-triggered video cameras. By comparing resident male puma visitation rates and communication behaviours in response to either male or female visitors, we found that their visitation and communication behaviours were best explained by the combination of visitation by both competitors and potential mates. Resident males returned to scent marking sites more quickly and increased their rate of flehmen response after visitation by a females, while they increased their rate of visitation and duration of visits in response to other males. Male pumas also visited less frequently in summer and autumn when female visitation rates were lower, but males created nearly twice as many scrapes during these visits. This study suggests that advertising for mates when scent marking may sometimes overshadow the importance of deterring competitors and claiming territory.
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