WILDOMAR, Calif. (AP) - Scientists studying Southern California's mountain lions are using mathematical formulas created to understand electrical circuits in order to determine how the animals move between habitats.
The mathematical model combines expert opinion about the terrain that cougars prefer with a formula that predicts how electrons move, according to the researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, Northern Arizona University and other institutions.
"Electricity is based on conductance and resistance," biologist Rick Hopkins said. "That is how animals look at the landscape."
For electricity, resistance may come in the form of plastic or wood. For a mountain lion, resistance could be a highway, shopping mall or houses, researchers said.
The model, which is being applied to about 22,000 square miles in Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange and Los Angeles counties, could provide information about how to preserve habitat for mountain lions, researchers said.