Seasonal variation in the feeding ecology of pumas (Puma concolor) in northern California

M. L. Allen, L. M. Elbroch, D. S. Casady, H. U. Wittmer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Direct effects of predators depend upon factors that can vary across seasons, including variations in the abundance and vulnerability of migrating prey. Past studies show conflicting results of whether puma (Puma concolor (L., 1771)) feeding ecology varies among seasons. We employed GPS collars to study puma feeding ecology in a single-prey system with migratory black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus (Richardson, 1829)). We hypothesized that puma feeding ecology would vary based on changes in prey abundance and spatial distribution, as well as competition with scavengers and decomposers. Our results supported these hypotheses. Kill rates in number of ungulates/week were significantly higher in summer and autumn than in winter, likely owing to the increased availability and density of black-tailed deer fawns. The handling times of blacktailed deer ≥1 year old were significantly higher in winter than in spring, summer, or autumn. We speculated that reduced handling time in summer may have been influenced by black bear (Ursus americanus Pallas, 1780) kleptoparasitism and the decomposition of kills. Pumas killed black-tailed deer at higher elevations in summer than in winter, spring, or autumn, and the elevations correlated significantly with seasonal elevations used by black-tailed deer, suggesting that pumas exhibited seasonal foraging behaviours and tracked prey availability in a system with migrating prey.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-403
Number of pages7
JournalCanadian journal of zoology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Black-tailed deer
  • Kill rate
  • Migration
  • Odocoileus hemionus columbianus
  • Prey distribution
  • Puma concolor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


Dive into the research topics of 'Seasonal variation in the feeding ecology of pumas (Puma concolor) in northern California'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this