The presence of humans - homes, roads, and other development - means pumas are fearful and stay on the move rather than returning to a kill site to fully consume prey.

"We investigated how higher housing densities influenced puma behavior at kills and how often they killed. We found that female pumas spent less time feeding at kill sites as housing increases," said Justine Smith, a PhD candidate at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

The study is based on monitoring more than two dozen pumas in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The effects can impact deer populations as well as puma breeding success.

The greatest impact on pumas was when their hunting territories were within 150 meters of human development. Females killed an average 67 deer per year compared with nearly 44 for males whose ranges are around three times as large.

"Increased kill rates may lead carnivores to waste energy and also influence prey survival rates in human-modified landscapes," Smith noted.

"The food loss and high energy costs due to human avoidance at kill sites is compensated for by increasing kill rates," Smith concluded. The study appeared in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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