We examined predation habits of cougars (Puma concolor (L., 1771)) following the recent recovery of gray wolves (Canis lupus L., 1758) in the southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. With the extirpation of wolves in the early 20th century, cougars likely expanded their niche space to include space vacated by wolves, and increased use of habitat better suited to the foraging of a coursing predator, like wolves. We predicted that as wolves recolonized their former range, competitive exclusion would compel cougars to cede portions of niche space occupied in the absence of wolves. To examine this hypothesis, we radio-tracked cougars and examined their predation sites from winter 2000–2001 through summer 2009.
Variation in foraging by cougars was associated with increasing wolf presence. As wolf numbers increased and the mean distance between wolf pack activity centers and cougar predation sites decreased, cougars made kills at higher elevations on more north-facing slopes during summer and in more rugged areas during winter. In addition, cougars preyed on a higher proportion of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus (Rafinesque, 1817)), consistent with predictions of exploitative competition with wolves. Observed changes in predation characteristics reflect differences in predation strategy between cougars and wolves, given that wolves are coursing predators and cougars are ambush predators. These possible predation effects should be considered when developing management strategies in systems where the recolonization of wolves may occur. [abstract, Variation in cougar (Puma concolor) predation habits during wolf (Canis lupus) recovery in the southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem]Wolves are considered a federal endangered species in South Dakota.
Dave Whitaker was temporarily stunned when he saw what looked like a black wolf. According to published reports, Whitaker is not the only one who believes he may have seen a wolf recently in the Black Hills. At least three Spearfish residents thought they saw wolves near their homes this week and in December, according to the Associated Press. [Meredith Colias, Rapid City Journal]Buy 'em books and buy 'em books then they wad 'em up and use 'em for toilet paper.
On Monday Spearfish resident Pete McNamee called the Spearfish Police Department to report a wolf sighting near Windmill Drive shortly after 11 a.m. [Mark Watson, Black Hills Pioneer]From the RCJ:
The gray wolf found dead Monday morning near Pine Ridge made a 400-mile journey from Yellowstone National Park to southwest South Dakota in less than two months, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf specialist said Tuesday. Mike Jimenez of Jackson, Wyo., said information received from the radio-transmitter collar on the wolf identified it as a 3- to 4-year-old male that was part of a wolf pack in the southeast part of Yellowstone. --Kevin Woster, Rapid City JournalSouth Dakota Game, Fish, and Plunder has been systematically exterminating the cougar population that had been discouraging wolves from migrating into the state.
Black bears could make a comeback in the Black Hills, too as cougar numbers are reduced.