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August 18, 2014

Bio-logging collar reveals unprecedented detail about California mountain lions

Data amounts to an electronic diary of the wild cat's reactions and activities, as well as movements

How do you get to know a free-roaming California mountain lion? Very carefully!

Actually, you may never be able to spend time on the trail with a wild cat, but if the cat is wearing the new high tech collar designed by University of California, Santa Cruz, researchers, you'll find out a lot more about what you're missing. With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), wildlife ecologist Chris Wilmers and his team developed the collar to help them learn more about the behavior, metabolism and habitat preferences of mountain lions.

It's a GPS tracker, and so much more! In addition to its location, the collar records the animal's behavior and physiology in unprecedented detail. For example, the researchers try to determine in real time whether the animal being tracked is walking, running, stalking or pouncing. The researchers are learning more about how the cats respond to different stimuli, such as climate, and interactions with other animals, and changes in the landscape created by development.

The research in this episode was supported by NSF award #0963022, ANIMA (Accelerometer Network Integrator for Mobile Animals), a New Instrument Package for Integrating Behavior, Physiology and Ecology of Wild Mammals.

Miles O'Brien, Science Nation Correspondent
Marsha Walton, Science Nation Producer

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this material are only those of the presenter grantee/researcher, author, or agency employee; and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.