Noninvasive approaches to reduce human-cougar conflict in protected areas on the west coast of Vancouver Island




Thompson, Danielle M.

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Cougars (Puma concolor) are a growing concern for managers of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve on the west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Since the mid-1990s, the frequency and intensity of human-cougar interactions have dramatically increased. Concurrently, these areas have become increasingly popular for human activities. The primary goal of my study was to recommend ways to reduce the potential risk of human-cougar interactions to ensure long-term conservation of cougars while minimizing risks to visitor safety. To achieve this goal, I examined the use of two noninvasive approaches. First, during 2005-2006, I compared the rate of detection, cost and time required for a detector dog, sign surveys, scented rub pads and remotely triggered cameras to detect cougars in coastal temperate rainforests. Sign surveys were the most effective method due to the availability of good tracking substrate throughout the study areas. Cameras were also practical because they could be used by less skilled personnel and had the capacity to detect several species of wildlife. Second, I demonstrated the utility of pre-existing data by analysing the spatiotemporal trends of human-cougar interactions on the West Coast Trail from 1993-2006. My results showed a moderate increase of reported human-cougar interactions (n = 157) despite a steady decline in hiker numbers across these years. I identified four areas where activities of people and cougars repeatedly overlapped (hotspots). In general, interaction locations were primarily associated with high human activity: near campsites and landscape characteristics that were associated with campsites (i.e., beaches and freshwater drainages >20 m wide). However, the distribution of hotspots suggests that the co-occurrence of human-use areas (e.g., campsites) and important travel routes (e.g., freshwater drainages and logging roads) used by cougars may increase the likelihood of interactions. These findings will allow protected area managers to proactively mitigate human-cougar conflict through visitor education and protocols that reduce people and cougars from intersecting in space and time.



large carnivore conservation, human-carnivore conflict, noninvasive, kernel density, hotspot mapping, protected areas