The effects of urbanization on population density, occupancy, and detection probability of wild felids

Jesse S. Lewis, Kenneth A. Logan, Mat W. Alldredge, Larissa L. Bailey, Sue Vandewoude, Kevin R. Crooks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Urbanization is a primary driver of landscape conversion, with far-reaching effects on landscape pattern and process, particularly related to the population characteristics of animals. Urbanization can alter animal movement and habitat quality, both of which can influence population abundance and persistence. We evaluated three important population characteristics (population density, site occupancy, and species detection probability) of a medium-sized and a large carnivore across varying levels of urbanization. Specifically, we studied bobcat and puma populations across wildland, exurban development, and wildland-urban interface (WUI) sampling grids to test hypotheses evaluating how urbanization affects wild felid populations and their prey. Exurban development appeared to have a greater impact on felid populations than did habitat adjacent to a major urban area (i.e., WUI); estimates of population density for both bobcats and pumas were lower in areas of exurban development compared to wildland areas, whereas population density was similar between WUI and wildland habitat. Bobcats and pumas were less likely to be detected in habitat as the amount of human disturbance associated with residential development increased at a site, which was potentially related to reduced habitat quality resulting from urbanization. However, occupancy of both felids was similar between grids in both study areas, indicating that this population metric was less sensitive than density. At the scale of the sampling grid, detection probability for bobcats in urbanized habitat was greater than in wildland areas, potentially due to restrictive movement corridors and funneling of animal movements in landscapes influenced by urbanization. Occupancy of important felid prey (cottontail rabbits and mule deer) was similar across levels of urbanization, although elk occupancy was lower in urbanized areas. Our study indicates that the conservation of medium-and large-sized felids associated with urbanization likely will be most successful if large areas of wildland habitat are maintained, even in close proximity to urban areas, and wildland habitat is not converted to low-density residential development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1880-1895
Number of pages16
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Bobcat
  • Detection probability
  • Exurban landscape
  • Lynx rufus
  • Mark-resight
  • Mountain lion
  • Occupancy
  • Population density
  • Puma concolor
  • Urbanization
  • Wildland-urban interface

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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