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GPS-based study for animals’ range and habitat

Fort Collins, US: GPS tracking data collected from radio collars on mountain lions, lynx, wolves and other wild mammals challenged scientific understanding of the animals’ range and habitat.

In the US, Colorado Division of Wildlife and other Western biologists are tracking more animals using satellites and computers and seeing them wander farther, more frequently and far beyond the bounds of what is believed to be their normal habitat.

GPS tracking data indicated a dozen of the 218 lynx transplanted into Colorado’s tundra subsequently trekked solo for hundreds of miles — as far as Kansas, Iowa and Alberta, Canada. A wolf collared near Yellowstone wandered hundreds of miles through Wyoming and Utah, then entered Colorado near Dinosaur National Park and traversed the state in 2009 — to the northern Front Range and back toward Utah — before dying from eating a prohibited poison.

A mountain-lion cub that fell into a north-suburban window well two years ago was hauled by rescuers back to mountains near Estes Park. Then it moved east again, creeping through a dry creek bed to Greeley and onward across Kansas and Oklahoma prairie — sleeping by day in old barns, and eating birds and rodents but no deer, state biologists said. GPS plots showed the cat has covered more than 700 miles and is in eastern New Mexico.

“All kinds of large mammals make really long-distance movements,” said Mat Alldredge, a state researcher running one of two mountain-lion projects. “Lions will disperse through hundreds of miles of what we see as nonhabitat. We think mountain lions should be in the mountains. But their historic range was from coast to coast.”

Colorado biologists hypothesise that wild animals transplanted into the state may wander because they are drawn to the sort of terrain they left. Another explanation may be that young males generally are driven to disperse, seeking new food sources and mates.

Growing evidence of long-distance wandering “will help us figure out how to plan for and manage wildlife,” Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Theo Stein said. “We may have had a blinkered view of what their behavior and territory really is.”

Source: Denver Post