Habitat Suitability Analysis for Mountain Lions (Puma Concolor) Recolonization/ Reintroduction in Minnesota

Open access

Abstract

The mountain lion range once extended throughout the state of Minnesota. The breeding population has been greatly reduced with time, new roads, and timber harvesting, which have broken large tracts of contiguous forest into isolated patches that are too small and no longer suitable for the breeding mountain lion population. The objective of this study is to use suitability analysis to determine the most suitable habitat to conserve mountain lion populations threatened by habitat fragmentation. To attain our objective, we created three sub models that contribute to the overarching goal of the suitability model. A habitat sub model was developed for finding the best habitat, a food sub model for access to the maximum amount of food needed, and a security sub model focusing on the distance from houses, roads, and urban development. Using the Weighted Sum tool, the three sub models were combined to produce a suitability surface based on the trade-off of the preferences of the goals represented by each sub model. Our suitability model shows large areas of high-quality mountain lion habitat in the northern and north-eastern sections of the state. These areas contain favourable locations for mountain lion habitat, such as forested land cover, low-density populations, steep slopes, short distances to streams, and area unimpeded by major roads. The southern and western parts of the state are characterized by lower slopes, more agricultural land, grassland, developed land, and higher population density, which results in lower quality habitat. The twin cities have the worst mountain lion habitat.

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