Cougars (Puma concolor) are of considerable interest to wildlife biologists and the general public in midwestern North America, yet no researchers have modelled potential habitat in the region. We created a model of potential cougar habitat in 9 midwestern states using geospatial data, expert-opinion surveys, the analytical hierarchy process, and a GIS. About 8% of the study region contained highly favorable habitat (with favorability scores ≥75%) for cougars; the states of Arkansas (19%) and Missouri (16%) contained the highest proportions of potentially favorable habitat. We identified 6 large (≥2500km2 in size), contiguous areas of highly favorable habitat for cougars. Model testing procedures indicated a valid model when compared to an independent set of cougar locations, a null dataset, and similar studies. Our model is useful as a planning tool to proactively address future human-cougar conflicts should cougars re-colonize the Midwest via subadult dispersal.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank the Summerlee Foundation , Shared Earth Foundation , Cougar Network , and Graduate School and Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory at Southern Illinois University Carbondale for project funding. Thanks to C. Anderson, P. Beier, C. Christianson, G. Koehler, D. Onorato, H. Quigley, T. Ruth, H. Shaw, S. Wilson, A. Wydeven, and J. Young for evaluating and returning our expert-opinion survey. T. Oyanna and P. McDonald provided considerable support with GIS. Thanks to D. Fecske for providing data regarding cougar locations used for model validation. We also acknowledge C. Anderson, M. Dowling, K. Miller, H. Shaw, and B. Wilson of the Cougar Network for facilitating our research and providing helpful guidance. Finally, thanks to P. Beier and an anonymous reviewer who provided comments that improved earlier drafts of this manuscript.
- Habitat modelling
- Midwestern North America
- Puma concolor