The Influence of Landscape on Cougar-Human Encounter Hazard in Boulder and Colorado Springs, Colorado




Shuey, Michelle Lynn

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Cougar (Puma concolor)-human encounters have increased across western North America since the 1970s. In the United States, reported conflicts are occurring more frequently in a few specific urban centers, like Denver/Boulder, Missoula, Los Angeles, and San Diego. What, if anything, makes these places prone to encounters? Other urban centers have both populations of cougar and humans yet do not have large numbers of encounters. However, little research exists on the urban cougar phenomenon and the spatial distribution of human-cougar contact. This research investigated how land-cover characteristics, specifically urban, suburban, and exurban residential development in Boulder and Colorado Springs, Colorado, affected the pattern of these interactions. Several methods were used to test the hypothesis that cougar-human encounters occurred more often in places with land covers that mimicked the cougar's natural habitat. Encounter locations for both study areas were overlaid with the USGS National Land Cover Dataset (1992) in ArcGIS, and land cover data were clipped to 100-meter buffers around each encounter. Conflict location analyses, including descriptive statistics, average nearest neighbor, chi-square, Kruskal-Wallis, Mann-Whitney U, and Spearman's Rho, analyzed land-cover proportions within 100-meter buffers. Additionally, the distance from encounter locations to common land covers were compared with the distance to the same land covers from random points. The results revealed that cougar-human encounters in both study areas occurred more often in grassland and suburban land-cover types than in evergreen (preferred cougar habitat), even when evergreen covered the greatest amount of the study area. Additionally, the proportions of land covers within encounter buffers were different between study areas. These results were compared with the development histories of each study area to illustrate the influence of land-cover patterns on the locations of encounters. Results indicated that encounters occurred closer to human-modified land cover types and farther from natural land-cover types in a heterogeneous landscape. Conversely, encounters occurred closer to natural land-cover types and farther from human-modified land cover types in a homogeneous landscape.



puma, Colorado, animal attacks, effect of human beings on nature, human-animal relationships, landscape changes, Boulder, Colorado Springs


Shuey, M.L. (2008). The influence of landscape on cougar-human encounter hazard in Boulder and Colorado Springs, Colorado (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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