Surplus killing by pumas

Surplus killing by pumas is rarely written about it seems to me. I bumped into this when reading the book Wild Cats of the World. At page 257 the authors, Mel and Fiona Sunquist, state: “Pumas will also indulge in surplus killing sprees, particularly with domestic sheep. In one incident 192 sheep were killed in a single night.”

Puma stalking
Puma stalking. Photo: Centioli Photography (believed).
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The incident of 192 sheep being killed in a surplus puma killing spree comes from S.P. Young reporting in his 1946 work: The Puma, mysterious American cat. A bit of research led me to a study first published on July 26, 2018 entitled Surplus killing by pumas Puma concolor: rumours and facts.

The figure of 192 sheep killed in one night by apparently a single puma seems extraordinary. However, sheep are by far the most commonly affected livestock species as victims of puma excess killing. The study I refer to reviewed information from central Argentina about surplus killing by pumas. The objective was to work out its impact on ranching in the area and to look at the causes and the implications in the ever-present puma-human conflict problem.

They reviewed 73 publications. In nine they found surplus killing events from six countries. In central Argentina 25-33% of ranchers reported surplus killing by pumas. On each event reported by the ranchers between 7-160 animals were killed with a median of 23. This data comes from what they describe as the “literature reports”. In the records of reports that they personally collated the number of animals killed varied from 2-60 with a median of 7; much lower numbers.

They concluded that the number of animals killed at each event of excess killing was greater when they interviewed people whose information came from second-hand sources (as I understand it) compared to first-hand reports and verified events. Therefore, they concluded that the information might have been exaggerated over time, which is not untypical (my thoughts).

Another possibility is that although surplus killing by pumas is not commonly reported in available literature, it may re-occur locally.

Despite the possible exaggeration, surplus killing can produce significant losses for sheep and goat ranchers. This puma behaviour can exacerbate conflict between pumas and humans. Because of that, people e.g. conservationists who are trying to reduce those conflicts should consider ways of mitigating puma excess killing events.

The ranchers interviewed attributed surplus killing to female pumas teaching kittens how to hunt. The researchers say that there is little evidence to support this. They believe that it is most likely to occur where the predator’s normal hunting behaviour (sequence) is disrupted because of the accessibility of a large number of prey animals e.g., sheep.

Puma surplus killing events on livestock may be encouraged by stormy weather and “poor anti-predator behaviour” together with “confinement”. I interpret the word “confinement” to mean confinement of livestock which means that when a puma has got inside the confined sheep, they have free reign to kill as many as they want. And poor ‘antipredator behaviour’ probably refers to farmers not taking sufficient steps to protect their livestock from predators.

The are some more articles on the puma below:

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