The gardening Puma

Big cats are expert hunters. Some may also be expert gardeners.

Scientists have been tracking Pumas (Mountain Lions or Cougars) in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of the western United States by using GPS-collars. They were particularly interested to find that the “kill zones” of the Pumas were very few and far between, and that the Pumas would constantly return to the same few sites to kill their prey.

Looking at these sites in greater detail, the scientists found something interesting.

The Pumas leave behind the carcasses of their prey at these sites. The carcasses break down and release nutrients which enhance the soil quality of these sites. This in turn leads to more prolific plants in that area, which in turn attract more herbivores like Elk and Deer. And then, yes, you’ve guessed it … the herbivores are then hunted and eaten … by the pumas.

In other words, the Pumas seem to be creating nutrient-rich ‘kill gardens’ to attract prey.

“Pumas contribute over a million kg of meat to ecosystems every day, improving the quality of soil and plant life, feeding hundreds of species, and supporting the health of their ecosystems and our planet’s overall web of life.”

Study co-author Mark Elbroch

The authors say this research helps us understand how complex ecosystems work. For example, it could help conservationists prioritize protecting animals that play key roles in keeping ecosystems healthy. By prioritizing these “strongly interacting species,” conservation efforts could better ensure the long-term health and stability of ecosystems.

Who would have thought that big cats like Pumas could also be called gardeners?

Original research article here. Image by Nina from Pixabay.


  1. Interesting! I had always related ‘puma’ to large black cats in South America. I didn’t realise the term is interchangeable with ‘cougar’/’mountain lion’, which we have here.


  2. I live in the U.S. in the state of Georgia. Our state Department of Natural Resources says there are no cougars here anymore, but I saw one behind my house. Several of my neighbors have seen them, too, including black ones. I felt very blessed to have spotted a cougar here where supposedly none exist.

    Liked by 1 person

      • No photo. I was keeping my daughter’s dog, and we were outside. I was so scared the cougar would come after us that I picked up the dog and ran into the house. There were no tracks because the cougar came down the hill through the woods and was running on dry leaves. None of my neighbors have ever managed to get photos either, but we’ve all seen cougars. No one bothers to call the Department of Natural Resources anymore because they just tell us that what we saw could not be a cougar.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is an interesting lesson in ecology and the members of the natural community. Many animals contribute to the ecology of their environment by their actions. Squirrels plant seeds, mainly acorns. Birds drop seeds as they fly. Other animals defecate seeds. Insects and some mammals and reptiles aerate the soil. Most act as controls of their food species to keep a balance in the world. And of course fungi are quite important to all life as well as also a control. Humans? Well, in all too many cases we are not good for much. Most organisms on the planet are valuable participants in the cycles of life and the Earth’s rebirth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes I agree Steve, and it is sometimes difficult to see the good that humans do. I think it’s interesting to see which animals contribute to the ecology in a secondary or coincidental way, and which in a direct way, like the pumas seem to be doing.

      Liked by 1 person

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