Talk shows, radio talk shows, and various podcasts are all becoming more and more popular by the day. They are a great way to pass the time on your daily commute to work, or while doing chores around the house. But not everyone is a fan. This is especially true for a certain feline that inhabits some of America’s famous mountain ranges, the mountain lion.
A study from California conducted in 2017 revealed that mountain lions exhibited drastic changes in behavior when they were in close vicinity of humans and their settlements. These large cats need a lot of food to satiate their hunger, and it is highly uncommon for them to leave freshly caught prey, which frequently occurs in these areas.
Scientists from California decided to try and figure out why exactly the presence of humans has such an adverse effect on mountain lion behavior. It is true that humans are the primary super-predator on our planet who can kill other top predators like mountain lions easily, but this is not something humans do that often.
The first thing the scientists decided to test is whether the human voice is enough to drive these animals away. They played recordings of human voices directly to the mountain lions, and as soon as the animals heard the human voices, they turned tail and ran away.
To accomplish this experiment, the researchers had to find where the mountain lions spent most of their time in the wilderness. They fitted mountain lions with GPS collars, and this helped them pinpoint where the most recent mountain lion kills occurred.
When a mountain lion kills its prey, they do not consume the whole thing at once. They leave it like that for days and return later for re-feeds during the night. During the day, when the meat was left unattended, scientists set up cameras and a speaker around one kill site. They also set up a motion sensor which played a recording of human speech when triggered. The recording lasted for one hour, but it was divided into two 30-minute segments. Which segment was played was utterly random, but there were only two possibilities. One recording was of frogs croaking, while the other was talk radio.
The team made sure to use recordings of seven different species of frogs as well as seven different radio hosts. They used liberal and conservative pundits and male and female voices. They also made sure to use high-quality recordings. Also, the host did not yell or sound angry. This was all done to determine whether someone walking down the trail casually and talking might spark fear in the animal.
What the cameras recorded was fascinating. When hearing the frogs, the animals had close to no reaction. As soon as the mountain lions heard human speech, they froze in place before running away.
In some cases, the fear in the animals was so great they even abandoned their kill completely. Because of the initial responses, the scientists made sure to do this only once per animal. This was very important because many mountain lions make their homes close to small towns.
Unfortunately, it is still unclear why pumas react to human voices in this way. There are speculations that it might have something to do with the animal’s history with humans. They have been hunted for years and are on the protected list since 1990.
The silver lining in all of this is that mountain lions seem smart enough to give up on their pray when they come in contact with humans. This dramatically increases their chances of survival. This also opens up many questions about how humans might affect other animals in the ecosystem if they are capable of scaring off a predator like the mountain lion so easily.
People still need to be cautious with these animals, especially if they live near their habitats. But this experiment shows that they might be more scared of us than we are of them.
Alexandra grew up dreaming of being a great science explorer. She always wanted to travel the world and explore some of the greatest science mysteries of the times. After high school, she studied chemistry in college and spent most of her summers working on research projects alongside her professors. It was there that Alexandra got clarity about what she wanted to do in the future. She now works full time in science research at a teaching university and is planning to go to medical school in a few years. She likes to stay up-to-date with the latest discoveries in science and share her love for science through her writing.