Are Mountain Lions Solitary Hunters...Or Party Animals?

Jun 17, 2015

Elbroch collected footage of as many as 9 mountain lions feeding at the same site. He says this shows "altruism," or an act that comes at a cost to the animal.
Credit Mark Elbroch

A researcher studying the social behaviors of mountain lions will present his findings on Thursday, June 18, in the first of a series of summer talks co-sponsored by the University of Wyoming and the National Parks.

Mark Elbroch is a wildlife biologist with Panthera, a conservation group studying big cats and their habitats. He says new technology like GPS collars and remote video cameras have given him unprecedented access to the lives of mountain lions.

“It’s all digital now so you can get video with sound,” he says. “You can buy these cameras for $150. And now I know where the cats are, I can sneak in and I can place these remote cameras in the right places and I can capture never before seen behaviors of wild mountain lions.”

Elbroch says they’ve seen as many as 9 big cats—males, females and kittens—all sharing food. He calls this ecological altruism and says it contradicts old assumptions about how mountain lions interact.

“This is a completely misunderstood species,” he says. “Here we perpetuate this mythology of these solitary killing machines. And so it perpetuates fear in our society. And what we found is that mountain lions aren’t just social, but they’re often interacting in unaggressive, nonviolent ways.”

His talk takes place at the Berol Lodge at the AMK Ranch at 5:30 p.m. June 18th. For a complete list of the Harlow summer seminars, click here.