Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) Feeding Behavior in the Little Missouri Badlands of North Dakota

Document Type


Publication Version

Version of Record

Publication Date


Departmental Paper Identifier



Badlands, cougar, food habits, GPS collars, kill rate, mountain lion, North Dakota, predation, Puma concolor


Recent recolonization of mountain lions (Puma concolor) into the Little Missouri Badlands of North Dakota has led to questions regarding the potential impacts of predation on prey populations in the region. From 2012 to 2013, we deployed 9 real-time GPS collars to investigate mountain lion feeding habits. We monitored mountain lions for 1,845 telemetry-days, investigated 506 GPS clusters, and identified 292 feeding events. Deer (Odocoileus spp.) were the most prevalent item in mountain lion diets (76.9%). We used logistic regression to predict feeding events and size of prey consumed at an additional 535 clusters. Our top model for predicting presence of prey items produced a receiver operating characteristic score of 0.90 and an overall accuracy of 81.4%. Application of our models to all GPS clusters resulted in an estimated ungulate kill rate of 1.09 ungulates/week (95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.83–1.36) in summer (15 May‒15 November) and 0.90 ungulates/week (95% CI = 0.69–1.12) in winter (16 November‒14 May). Estimates of total biomass consumed were 5.8kg/day (95% CI = 4.7–6.9) in summer and 7.2kg/day (95% CI = 5.3–9.2) in winter. Overall scavenge rates were 3.7% in summer and 11.9% in winter. Prey composition included higher proportions of nonungulates in summer (female = 21.5%; male = 24.8%) than in winter (female = 4.8%; male = 7.5%). Proportion of juvenile ungulates in mountain lion diets increased during the fawning season (June‒August) following the ungulate birth pulse in June (June–August = 60.7%, 95% CI = 43.0–78.3; September–May = 37.2%, 95% CI = 30.8–43.7), resulting in an ungulate kill rate 1.61 times higher (1.41 ungulates/week, 95% CI = 1.12–1.71) than during the remainder of the year (0.88 ungulates/week, 95% CI = 0.62–1.13). Quantifying these feeding characteristics is essential to assessing the potential impacts of mountain lions on prey populations in the North Dakota Badlands, where deer dominate the available prey base and mountain lions represent the lone apex predator.

Publication Title

Journal of Mammalogy





First Page


Last Page


DOI of Published Version



Oxford University Press