Nutrients from carcasses left from cougar kills create more nutritious forage, which in turn attracts more prey to this hunting site
Panthera scientists studying cougars in the Tetons revealed a fascinating cycle between herbivores, carnivores, and vegetation. They found that nitrogen, carbon, and other valuable nutrients from carcasses left from cougar kills were taken up by soil and plants under the decay. This created more nutritious forage in kill sites that is known to be favored by herbivores, thus closing a cycle in which cougars can create their own hunting hot-spots that favor their ambush style hunting technique.
The team came to this conclusion after studying 172 ungulate carcasses, 1,007 soil samples, and 130 plant samples from 65 sites. They estimated that a dozen cougars produce over 220,000 lbs. of carrion per year (a mass equivalent to that of the world’s largest animal, the blue whale!). As we learn more about these furtive creatures, we understand better how all native animals, including predators, play an important role in nutrient cycling and ecosystem dynamics.
Read more here.
Original Manuscript available for purchase here.