Estimating Cougar Abundance

MS Thesis, Kenneth Loonam

Cougar management relies on accurate estimates of abundance, but these estimates can be difficult to obtain for low density, cryptic animals. Current methods for measuring cougar populations range from high intensity efforts, such as mark saturation and genetic capture recapture, that are limited spatially by the availability of resources to a variety of indices that can be broadly applied but have limited accuracy. We are working with Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG) to adapt a method of estimating abundance using remote cameras and time to event modelling to cougars. Remote cameras can lower the costs of abundance monitoring, allowing accurate measurements to be made across broad spatial scales or in multiple locations. Once the time to event model is adapted, we will use camera data from all of IDFG’s monitoring projects to build a predictive model of cougar density based on habitat and community characteristics.