Cameron Macias, University of Idaho, Olympic Cougar Project

Saturday, Aug. 13, 2:15-2:45 pm PDT
‏‏“Counting Cougars in a Temperate Rainforest: The Olympic Cougar Project”

The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe (LEKT) sets annual harvest regulations that differ from those of Washington State. Until now, however, no data had been collected on predator populations in the tribe’s historic use area and we lacked information for setting sustainable harvest regulations and addressing long-term conservation concerns. To address this data gap, we are using a combination of noninvasive genetic sampling, GPS collars, and a camera grid to estimate cougar (Puma concolor) and bobcat (Lynx rufus) abundance on the Olympic Peninsula. First, we used scat-detection dogs to locate and collect felid scat samples across our 606 km2 study area. Of the 665 scat samples collected during 2018-2020, we identified 168 cougar scats and 424 bobcat scats. We identified a minimum count of 27 individual cougars using 11 microsatellite loci. Genetic individual identification of bobcat samples is ongoing. Second, we equipped 14 cougars and 6 bobcats with GPS collars between 2018-2022 to estimate minimum counts using home range overlap estimation. Third, we deployed a 74-camera grid each summer during 2019-2021 to estimate cougar and bobcat abundance using space-to-event modeling. Next, we will build models that integrate data from each method to provide more precise abundance estimates, as well as evaluate the relative precision of estimates across individual methods. Moving forward, cameras can provide the LEKT with a noninvasive and cost-effective approach to long-term wildlife monitoring if we can demonstrate that cameras produce abundance estimates that are comparable to established enumeration methods.

Cameron Macias grew up in the small town of Port Angeles in western Washington State. She completed her B.S. in Environmental Science from the Western Washington University. Prior to attending the University of Idaho, Cameron spent 4 years working as a Wildlife Technician for the Lower Elwha Tribe, of which she’s a member. She started at the University of Idaho as a Master’s student in 2018 and transitioned into the PhD program in 2020. Cameron enjoys gardening, painting, hiking, and has recently become a super-fan of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team.

Cameron Macias

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