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Keywords:

  • fecal DNA;
  • metapopulation;
  • microsatellites;
  • noninvasive sampling;
  • relatedness;
  • road kills;
  • sex ratio

ABSTRACT The northeast area of São Paulo state has been intensively deforested, resulting in a highly fragmented landscape composed of a few large patches and several small patches of natural vegetation surrounded by sugarcane, eucalyptus, and citrus plantations. In this scenario, we investigated the puma (Puma concolor) population size, sex ratio, and relatedness in two of the last, and largest, natural refuges in the area using a noninvasive method during 2004–2008. By collecting and individualizing fecal samples by microsatellites, we identified 17 individuals, 13 females (76.4%) and 4 males (23.6%) in these areas. Five females were sampled in distinct years and over an extended time and probably represented resident adults. By investigating the relatedness among individual pumas inhabiting the area, we found that only three animals were not related to each other. We also found evidence that young females might establish an adjacent or overlapping territory to their mothers (phylopatry). Moreover, we registered 11 road-killed individuals nearby the study area, ten males and one female, and six human–puma conflicts. The study area may act as a source of individuals that disperse across the matrix to occupy new home ranges, maintaining some degree of gene flow in a source–sink metapopulation structure. Finally, we recommend that puma management should be conducted at the landscape level to provide effective puma conservation in northeastern São Paulo state.

Abstract in Portuguese is available in the online version of this article.