Puma in the dark by danihernanz on Flickr.


Training Wyatt, the cougar, to “offer paw” using operant condition with positive reinforcement for my senior project. This behavior is what is known as a husbandry behavior, meanings it assists with animal husbandry. This particular behavior can be useful for carrying out procedures such as nail trimming and paw examinations without the need to physically restrain an animal (unfortunately Wyatt was declawed as a cub by his previous owners before being confiscated and brought to the zoo). This reduces stress, cost, and time of the procedure.It also provides mental enrichment and improves animal/keeper relationships. Other husbandry behaviors include standing on a scale, holding for injections, or entering a crate. 

To teach this behavior to Wyatt, I began by using the shaping shortcut of “targeting,” meaning I reinforced him every time he touched the target with his paw. Once this was accomplished, I slowly phased out the use of the target until he would offer his paw freely on cue, allowing me to hold and manipulate his paw in my hands. Lastly, I began asking him to lie down during the behavior, so that he was more relaxed and would hold the behavior for extended periods of time. The behavior took about ten weeks, at 3 training sessions per week, to complete.

Bottom photo taken by thatgirlwithalltheanimals :)


Freeways as fences, trapping the mountain lions of Los Angeles

Photo by: Steve Winter

That mountain lions have managed to survive at all in the Santa Monica Mountains of California – in the vicinity of the megacity of Los Angeles – is a testament to the resilience of wildlife, but researchers studying these large carnivorous cats now show in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on August 14 that the lions are also completely isolated, cut off from other populations by the freeway. According to the researchers’ analyses, only one young mountain lion successfully dispersed into the Santa Monica Mountains in a decade.

[Read Full Story Here]

Mountain Lion Dispersal in the Tetons

by Mark Elbroch

M80 and F96, young mountain lions followed by Panthera’s Teton Cougar Project, dispersed from their mother’s home range in northwest Wyoming, about April 1st, 2014, when the pair were 19 months old. In northern climates, there is a Spring pulse of young mountain lions setting out to find territories of their own.

M80 moved north in one decisive movement, never to return. His sister, F96, was more tentative. Several times, she looped away from her mother and then back again. Upon returning from an exploratory adventure, F96 would find her mother and feast upon her kills. Finally, F96 moved south following the mountains forming the eastern edge of the vast valley called Jackson Hole.

In terms of biology, dispersal is an individual’s one-way ticket away from the area where the animal was born and raised by their mother, or in some cases, their mother and father. Mountain lion dispersal is one of the least known aspects of their ecology, as dispersal is particularly difficult to study in wide-ranging, secretive species.

Research suggests that male mountain lions innately disperse to avoid inbreeding with their sisters and mothers. Not only do male kittens disperse more frequently than their sisters, but in general, much further as well. M80 dispersed more than 250 miles in eight months, whereas his sister traveled but 15 miles in the same time frame…

(read more: National Geographic)

photo by Mark Elbroch/Teton Cougar Project - Panthera