Scientists with the University of California, Santa Cruz, Puma Project said the study three-year study of 20 mountain lions was aimed at understanding the impact of habitat fragmentation on the animals' physiology, behavior and ecology in an effort to improve conservation measures.
The large predators living relatively close to a metropolitan area have shown they need a buffer from human development at least four times larger for reproductive behaviors than for other activities such as moving and feeding, they said.
"Depending on their behavior, animals respond very differently to human development," researcher Chris Wilmers said.
Lions are "totally willing to brave rural neighborhoods, but when it comes to reproductive behavior and denning they need more seclusion," he said.
Twenty lions were captured, anesthetized, fitted with GPS collars and then released, allowing researchers to track their movements and calculate locations of feeding sites, communication spots and dens.
The tracking identified corridors where pumas typically travel between areas of high-quality habitat, the researchers said.
Wilmers advised people to proceed with caution in any known mountain lion roaming grounds but he said humans shouldn't panic about the presence of mountain lions.