Predation of guanacos (Lama guanicoe) by southernmost mountain lions (Puma concolor) during a historically severe winter in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile


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The effects of mountain lion Puma concolor predation on guanaco Lama guanicoe mortality was investigated during the historically severe winter of 1995 in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. The 45 guanaco carcasses located represented 3% of the entire guanaco population of which 74% were mountain lion kills, 13% died from malnutrition, 2% died from fence entanglement and 11% died from unknown causes. Depleted bone marrow fat was observed in 20% of all carcasses. The number of guanaco deaths differed among sex and age classes, particularly in juveniles (< 1 year of age), which died more often than expected (P < 0.001). Fresh guanaco carcasses (n= 19) killed by mountain lions were located in tree and shrub habitats 79% of the time and were significantly greater than expected values based on the relative availability of these habitats (P < 0.001). Observations of the spatial distribution of mountain lion kills and guanaco mixed-sex groups were similar (P= 0.10), suggesting that mountain lions responded to winter migratory movements made by guanacos. Overall, adult guanacos experienced surprisingly lower levels of mortality (adult male = 1%, adult female = 2%) than expected, despite the severe winter conditions, while juveniles experienced higher levels of mortality (13%) than expected. In comparison to other years (1991–96), the severe winter of 1995 (i.e. this investigation) had the greatest total mortality for juveniles, although the proportion of deaths caused by mountain lion predation for juveniles was greatest during other winters.