Analyzing land use of a recovering North American carnivore

Analyzing land use of a recovering North American carnivore



Kara Beth Gregory


Presentation: 1:15-2:30, Kennedy Union Ballroom



Large mammalian carnivores play important roles within healthy ecosystems, but they have a history of population decline and local extinctions due to human influences. As conservation efforts to protect threatened species have encouraged population growth and expansion, some of these large carnivores have begun to make their way back to their historic species ranges. While vital to ecosystem health, recovering carnivores—like bears, wolves, and cougars—are bound to have some conflict with humans, such as wildlife-vehicle collisions, damage to livestock, and threats to human safety. Therefore, it is important to understand where recovering carnivores are likely to settle. One such recovering North American carnivore, the cougar (Puma concolor), exists mainly in the western United States. However, there have been recent sightings of these large cats in areas further east, suggesting that they may be expanding back into their previous species range. I aim to understand potential cougar expansion in Missouri, a state that research suggests may have available habitat, and also with an active conservation department that records all reported cougar sightings. Through this research, I aim to map potential cougar distribution in Missouri by developing a species distribution model using cougar presence data and relevant environmental variables. The Missouri Department of Conservation maintains a database of confirmed cougar sighting locations from 1994 to present. This location data will be used in the model along with environmental variables that are typically associated with cougar presence (i.e. land cover, vegetation quality, prey density, landscape ruggedness). I will use the distribution model to create a potential distribution map of cougars in Missouri and identify core habitat patches.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Mariela Gantchoff

Primary Advisor's Department



Stander Symposium, College of Arts and Sciences

Institutional Learning Goals

Scholarship; Practical Wisdom; Community

Analyzing land use of a recovering North American carnivore