Available at: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/theses/2689
Date of Award
MS in Biological Sciences
College of Science and Mathematics
John D. Perrine
College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences
Land use conversion toward agriculture such as orchards and vineyards can have severe negative impacts on habitat and wildlife, particularly large carnivores, globally through habitat fragmentation and loss. The mountain lion (Puma concolor) population in the California Central Coast is thought to provide “stepping-stone” connectivity between several severely genetically compromised coastal populations throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains and several mountain ranges in Southern California; however, the California Central Coast is one of the fastest-developing regions of California with little protection against future land use conversion. Conserving areas of and corridors between high-quality mountain lion habitat through conservation easements should be prioritized. Our results showed that this is especially important in areas currently zoned for agriculture and residential but not fully developed yet. Conserving quality habitat is not only beneficial to mountain lions, but also many species underneath their ecological “umbrella.”
In my first chapter, I performed a literature review detailing what ecologists currently understand about human impacts on wildlife, with an emphasis on large carnivores, through habitat fragmentation and loss, land conversion, and human-carnivore conflict. I also reflected on mountain lion ecology and management in California and North America as a whole, before reviewing analytical methods most commonly used to study their home ranges and resource selection.
In my second chapter, I used GPS collar data from seven GPS-collared mountain lions on the Fort Hunter Liggett Army Base in Monterey County, California to compare minimum convex polygon, kernel density isopleth, and adaptive-local convex hull methods to elucidate the strengths and weaknesses of each when estimating wildlife home ranges and utilization distributions. Following this, I used the GPS data to create a resource selection function to model predicted resource selection patterns of the mountain lions on the Army Base before projecting my model out to the counties comprising the greater California Central Coast. I then overlaid this habitat suitability map with zoning and land protection status maps from each county. My results provide a clear visual representation of not only mountain lion habitat suitability throughout the Central Coast, but areas wildlife and land managers should prioritize for conservation in relation to adjacent areas of varying zoning and protection statuses.