The health of an ecosystem can be measured by studying the relationships between the organisms living within it. Ecosystems have evolved to maintain a dynamic (ever changing and adapting) equilibrium among all animal and plant species.
Mountain Lions are a native species of Texas and an important selective (influential and effective) force on prey populations, such as deer, feral hogs, javelina and rabbits, as well as on other carnivores such as coyotes and bobcats.
Scientific studies conducted in Texas on Mountain Lions show that the cats suffer a high mortality rate due to unregulated killing, and thus have a skewed and unhealthy age structure “Current Status”).
Genetic studies conducted in Texas indicate that there are two distinct and separate populations in the state, one in western Texas (Trans-Pecos ecoregion) and one in southern Texas.
A third population also exists in Texas, distributed in the area of the Texas-New Mexico border. This population shows a restricted gene flow to the population of western Texas. This means that there is only a limited migration of Mountain Lions between the areas.
Open spaces are scarce. Mountain Lions are competing for space with increased human expansion and habitat fragmentation.
In Texas, 98% of all land is privately owned, and the points of view concerning wildlife and habitat conservation are diverse. Opinions range from concern over livestock and game predation, the desire to increase the availability of public land, and interest in habitat and wildlife conservation. In most cases, regardless of view points and except for personal gain, most Texans are interested in ensuring that our wildlife and the health of Texas ecosystems are both maintained.
Adaptive Management Plan – Source/Sink Approach
An Adaptive Management Plan is an approach implemented successfully by several states with similar land, wildlife and terrain to those of Texas. If used as a solution, this approach will be implemented with or without the involvement of TPWD.
This approach identifies:
- Sink areas, such as sheep and goat areas, are areas that require predator control. The objective (the need) is to reduce the number of Mountain Lions in those particular areas.
- Source areas involve minimum human interference, allowing Mountain Lions to reproduce naturally.
- Stable areas are those where hunting/removal is allowed while maintaining a stable population of Mountain Lions. These areas will also allow natural dispersal of Mountain Lions.
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a. Develop a GIS-based sink-source-stable density and distribution map for Texas Mountain Lions under current conditions.
b. Develop a population dynamics model that projects Mountain Lion population trends under known parameters.
c. Evaluate the usefulness of the model by examining its ability to simulate population trends. [This will be done by using fully tested parameters of Mountain Lion population studies under similar habitat conditions in the San Andres Mountains of New Mexico.]
d. Project population trends for the Texas Mountain Lion population based on known parameters studied in Texas, taking into consideration uncertainties.
e. Use the model to project Population Dynamics of the Texas Mountain Lion population under various assumptions regarding changes in migration pattern from Mexico, changes in mortality rates, various recruitment rates, establishment of source-sink-stable areas, and securing migration corridors for dispersal.