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Background: Overexploitation and persecution of large carnivores resulting from conflict with humans comprise major causes of declines worldwide. Although little is known about the interplay between these mortality types, hunting of predators remains a common management strategy aimed at reducing predator-human conflict. Emerging theory and data, however, caution that such policy can alter the age structure of populations, triggering increased conflict in which conflict-prone juveniles are involved.

Results: Using a 30-year dataset on human-caused cougar (Puma concolor) kills in British Columbia (BC), Canada, we examined relationships between hunter-caused and conflict-associated mortality. Individuals that were killed via conflict with humans were younger than hunted cougars. Accounting for human density and habitat productivity, human hunting pressure during or before the year of conflict comprised the most important variables. Both were associated with increased male cougar-human conflict. Moreover, in each of five regions assessed, conflict was higher with increased human hunting pressure for at least one cougar sex.

Conclusion: Although only providing correlative evidence, such patterns over large geographic and temporal scales suggest that alternative approaches to conflict mitigation might yield more effective outcomes for humans as well as cougar populations and the individuals within populations


Open Access Article