Potential Mountain Lion Habitat on the Domain and Barriers to its Access

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Mazyck, Mary
Bartenstein, Catherine
Williams, Charlie
Wilson, Elizabeth
Evans, John
Van de Ven, Chris
Issue Date
Scholarship Sewanee 2011 , University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee , Undergraduate research , Mountain lions , Domain habitat , Barriers to movement , Cumberland Plateau
Although mountain lions were declared extinct in the eastern United States in 2011, there is continued interest in the possibility of small surviving populations in remote areas. In the last several years, there have been many unconfirmed sightings on the Cumberland Plateau, including the Domain of The University of the South. We hypothesize that the Domain facilitates mountain lion movement through the greater undeveloped lands of the southern Cumberland Plateau. To analyze this, we categorized roads as barriers to movement based on surface type, width, and traffic density for mountain lion crossing. We also classified the suitability of land of the Domain for the movement of mountain lions based on its forest cover type, land use history, as well as housing density. We combined all of these data into a geographic information system (GIS) to output the most likely corridors for mountain lions to enter the domain as well as significant barriers to their movement. With this analysis, we found that there are two likely corridors in which a mountain lion could successfully pass between the suitable habitat south of the Domain into areas of suitable habitat west of the Domain.