California lions Threatened?

This entry was posted by on Tuesday, 17 May, 2011 at

Below is an article published by Ms. McDonald regarding California mountain lions. I will refute the declarations of Ms. McDonald, then you may read on and decide for yourself:

The first thing people should know about mountain lions is: they are predators and are lethal killers and one should never assume safety when in lion country. The risk of a human-lion encounter and hence of loss of life is growing.

Next, mountain lions are the primary reason that mule deer have declined and have not been able to recover.

Mountain lions are not an essential part of the ecological web. Man is able to regulate prey populations without the aid of mountain lions. Mountain lions, by design, are a stop-gap measure.

Persons should be aware that they are many times being observed by lions without knowing it. If you actually see a lion, then first, there are too many, and second, prepare to defend yourself by any means possible.

Mountain lion habitat is mule deer. No, I didn’t say that wrong. Cougar “habitat fragmentation” is mule deer fragmentation. The largest threat facing mountain lions is overcrowding. In the Western United States there are already more lions than the available deer will support, so lions are turning to alternatives such as eating elk, preying on people, and moving east to eat whitetails.

Hunting, depredation, and vehicles do not threaten lions and lions are not threatened. Mule deer are threatened. When the lion population is down to about 5 percent of current numbers then possibly there may be a reason to say they are “threatened”. I’m talking about 1960′s numbers. And, as anyone can see, those numbers did not place cougars in jeopardy.

Mountain lions are quite at home in many populated areas of California, where they are known to prey on peoples’ pets. Although they would likely prefer the remote “wilds” , that is if there were sufficient prey, they don’t necessarily leave just because of human encroachment.

Until very recently, the population trend for mountain lions has been on the increase. The reason lion population increase has slowed  in the West, is that further increase is prohibited by their territorial nature. So, if it is critical that we change course, and it is actually, then we need to begin drastically reducing mountain lion numbers.

According to the Director of the California Department of Fish and Game, California has more mountain lions than any Western State. And, why is that? Because, by proposition, California lions have been protected. No hunting allowed. Furthermore, if you work for animal damage control, you must catch the lion in the act and have no other alternative but to kill it. In essence, there are more lions being born in California than are being killed.

Regarding inter- and in-breeding: Since a male lion maintains a territory that overlaps only a few females, unless the male moves his territory, inbreeding is assured. So what? Male lions have been known to move hundreds of miles without regard to what they encounter on the journey. This is presumably in search of food, not in search of different females.

——————————————————

The Felidae Conservation Fund was founded by Zara McDonald to educate the public about wild cats, and how to conserve them. She was inspired to start the organization after two different encounters with mountain lions while running long distances on park trails in northern California. What follows is an interview with her about mountain lion behavior and protection.

What is the first thing people should know about mountain lions?
The first thing people should know about mountain lions is that they’re an essential part of the ecological web. As the keystone species, they play a key role in keeping the ecosystem balanced and healthy. When they are removed from a habitat, the health of the ecosystem declines as the biodiversity falls out of balance. The next first thing people should know about mountain lions is that humans are not on their menu, and the risk of being attacked by a mountain lion is very very low. For example, you’re 150 times more likely to be killed in a car collision with a deer.

If you see a mountain lion in the wild, what should you do? What should you not do?
You should never approach a mountain lion or make it feel threatened, or get between a mother and her cubs. At the same time, you should not run away or crouch down. Stand your ground, and allow the lion an escape route. It will most likely disappear before you can be sure that you even saw a mountain lion, making you doubt your own eyes.

What threats are they facing?
The biggest threat mountain lions face is habitat fragmentation which leads to loss of contiguous habitat and connectivity corridors that connect populations for genetic diversity. In California, they also face threats from depredation permits which sanction the action of killing a cat that has killed pets or other livestock. In the remaining states where lions live, hunting is a major threat. And in all states, the risk of being killed by a car while crossing a road is a major threat. All wild felids around the world are seriously threatened by human encroachment and loss of key habitat.

How secure is their future?
Mountain lions are a threatened species. While they are not in imminent danger of extinction, there have been many local extinctions, and the territory they inhabit has been steadily shrinking over the past 150 years. If the current trends continue, they will ultimately face extinction like so many other wild cats. It is critical that we change this course now, while there is still time.

How much space do they need?
Mountain lions have vast home ranges. The home range for a female is on average 50 square miles, and can be as much as 100 square miles. For a male the range is typically 80-100 square miles and can be as much as 200 square miles. In one research study a male puma that was being GPS monitored traveled over 1000 km over a few weeks.

How large do their populations have to be so there is not inbreeding, and related genetic diseases?
The main cause of inbreeding and loss of genetic diversity for mountain lions is habitat fragmentation. The mountain lion is a low density species. Therefore populations need to be spread out across large amounts of contiguous habitat to be healthy. Males will typically not share territory with other males, and will fight to the death in a territory dispute. Within a male’s home range there can be 2-3 females. Based on the size of their home ranges, this means that at full density there are only about 4-5 adult mountain lions per 100 square miles. This makes the mountain lion a ‘bellwether’ species, exhibiting the harmful effects of habitat fragmentation long before other species do.

Does the media portray them accurately, or in a sensationalistic way?
In some cases the media accurately portrays mountain lions and the challenges they face in a human-dominated landscape. In other cases, there is a more sensationalist approach that emphasizes fear and perceived danger. Felidae is working hard to send a balanced and accurate message out, and has had a great deal of success generating positive and informative stories in the media.

What is their main source of food?
Mountain lions are ‘generalist predators’ meaning they will eat anything from mouse to a moose. However in North America around 80 percent of a mountain lion’s diet consists of deer, and in South America there are animals similar to deer which also form the bulk of the mountain lion’s diet.

How often do they reproduce?
An adult female mountain lion is pregnant or raising young for 70 percent of her life. The gestation period after conception is about 90-92 days, and the young will stay with the mother for 18-24 months. A female will typically get pregnant within a year, and often significantly less, from the time her previous litter disperses. That puts the total reproduction cycle at around 2.5 to 3 years.

How can members of the public help make sure mountain lions survive?
The main thing that members of the public can do is to get informed and get involved, and to spread the word and help support conservation efforts. Felidae’s website, felidaefund.org is a great place to start. It provides a lot of information about upcoming lectures, and opportunities to volunteer, make a donation, attend an event, sign up for our mailing list, and connect to our Facebook and Twitter accounts. Also check out bapp.org to watch this exciting project build momentum, Learn about the Bay Area Puma Project
and join us at an upcoming lecture in San Francisco at the Randall Museum on March 10th.

16 Responses to “California lions Threatened?”

  1. RANDY PFOHL

    I AGREE THE CATS HAVE BEEN PROTECTED WAY TOO LONG THEY HAVE DESTROYED THE DEER POPULATION … 25 YEARS AGO IN CALIFORNIA YOU COULD SEE HERDS OF DEER NOW YOU ARE LUCKY TO SEE 3 TOGETHER UNFORTUNANTLY IT WONT CHANGE UNTIL SOMEBODY OF IMPORTANCE LOSES A YOUNG CHILD … I VOTE THAT ALL OF US HUNTERS IN 2012 DONT BUY ANY DEER TAGS UNTIL THEY REALIZE THERE ARE NO DEER TO HUNT ANYWAY…. I WENT UP LAST WEEK TO MY HONEY HOLE ALWAYS LOTS OF DEER ACTIVITY AND A RESIDENT BEAR GREAT FOOD PLOTS AND TO MY SUPRISE NOBODY HOME … WOW NOT 1 TRAIL ,TRACKS OR POO …. WICKED QUIET I WAS GOING TO WALK THE CREEK BUT I KNOW THERE HAS TO BE A BIG CAT. BIG ENOUGH TO INTIMIDATE A BEAR THOUGH THE BEAR IS AROUND 3 SO HE ISNT THAT BIG OR EXPERIENCED I WOULD SAY HE WIEGHS AROUND 200- 250 LBS. 1 DEER A WEEK PER CAT WOW 52 DEER A YEAR TIMES HOW MANY CATS IN CALIFORNIA ESTIMATED AROUND 6000 (COULD BE A LOT MORE)THAT IS 312,000 DEER A YEAR. DEER POPULATION CANNOT KEEP UP WITH THIS DEMAND THEY DEFINANTLY CANT REPRODUCE AS FAST AS THE CATS DO EITHER … CATS UP TO SIX BABIES DEER TWINS MAYBE IF ONE DOESNT GET EATEN BY OTHER PREDITORS LIKE COYOTES, FOXES, BOBCATS,EAGLES,AND LETS NOT FORGET BUICKS AND FORDS. SEEMS LIKE PROP 117 IN 1990 WAS SOMEBODIES FEEL GOOD SOLUTION FOR A DAY I WISH THEY WOULD HAVE HAD MORE FORETHOUGHT WHEN THEY PASSED IT THAT20 YEARS OF CATS BREEDING AND BREEDING AND BREEDING WAS GOING TO BE DEVISTATING TO OTHER SPECIES.

  2. Bob Tait

    Just another example of why California is going to Hell in a hand basket. Eco freak, tree hugging, out of touch with reality animal activists, continue to distort the facts to satisfy their “feelings.” All one has to is talk to people who spend hours and hours in the mountains i.e. ranchers, rangers and hunters to get a solid dose of reality of exactly what the mountain lion is. He is a master predator and, if expansion of his territory remains unchecked and he is not removed from the protected list, the ecological balance of the system he controls will continue to deteriorate and Ms.McDonald will be scratching her head wondering why the Lion is starving, there are no deer, and there are increased attacks on pets, livestock and humans. FACT: A young, wandering, male mountain lion will kill two to three times more deer than he needs for food. He kills for pleasure just as much as he kills for food. This is from a first hand account of a cattle rancher in Southern Utah who observed the activities of a young male mountain lion over a period of fifteen to twenty days and observed some of the kills and discovered the remains of others. The same pattern was explained by my father, a sheep rancher who spent most of his life in the hills and saw first hand the senseless slaughter of deer and livestock by a predator that kills for pleasure. Do we need to give them space? Yes! Do we need to prevent their endangerment? Yes! but it’s gotten out of whack and I don’t want to hear the unfounded and baseless argument that the lion preys on the sick and old animals that need to be culled out of the herd. It is just as easy for a lion to bring down a large, mature healthy buck deer as it is for him to kill a doe. I have seen pictures validating this as well as hearing my father and brother tell of the healthy deer that they have seen fall victim to the wests most prolific predator. Bob Tait

  3. Wild-life Protector

    Reply to Bob Tait: Some might say i am a tree hugger but i do agree with you that they should be off the list until their number decreases but i do not think they should be killed for pleasure or just because they can. We might be tree hugging freaks but we know the difference between protecting your livestock people an jerks who hunt for the thrill of it.

  4. Shane Gordon

    Reply to wild-life protector: Glad you see cat numbers are too high and they need to be off the list. I am a jerk who hunts for the thrill of being out in and connecting with nature, wait, sounds like you minus the hunt part right? You want a healthy ecosystem and cant stand to see anything suffer and are willing to do what you can too stop or prevent that, yep, thats also me. Its also the vast majority of hunters, contrary to your perception we don’t spend huge amounts of time and money to be in the woods just to spill blood. There are always exceptions to every group but luckily most who are are out for that miss the connection part and are rarely successful in their ploy anyhow. Hunting is management but in the lions case it will create revenue instead of using your tax dollar to take them on depredations. Even if only the same amount of tags were issued as the previous years depredations were (witch wouldn’t be enough to reduce numbers) it would go a long way towards rekindling fear of humans and reduce further conflicts without cost to taxpayers.

  5. Mountain Lions are killing mule deer at a 10/1 ratio over hunters. Consider that as you go afield and cannot find many deer.

  6. Sea Eagle

    i can’t believe what i am hearing! i am a hunter and a kayak angler. i believe and agree with conservation or we won’t have anything to hunt or fish. but i believe in doing it responsibly. now for this mountain lion issue. i have lived in Orange County for most of my life and now am in Lake Elsinore in Riverside Country now. i hike and hunt the Santa Ana Mountains regularly, and the last time i have seen a mountain lion was when i was 14! i am now 41. by every report i have ever read mountain lions are threatened. we can’t be so selfish to deny the loin its food source just because we want to hunt deer too. grow up and get a clue!

    when was the last time you saw a mountain lion? and how many have you seen in the last 5 yrs?!?!

  7. Douglas (Sea Eagle),

    This would be an excellent topic for the forum. Please start a thread there. I personally see lions every year. In every state that has mule deer, including California, the lions are killing 10 times as many deer as hunters. That is a significant change from my childhood years, when the reverse was true because lions were controlled. I believe hunters deserve a larger portion. By some estimates, California now has upwards of 10,000 lions and doing a little math, those lions consume 250,000-500,000 deer per year. Imagine how the deer herd in California might blossom were there not so many mountain lions.

  8. California lions Threatened, was a great read, thank you. I hunt http://www.peartreegameranch.com for deer. I have always wanted to hunt lions, just kidding, they are too Awesome.

  9. Phil

    sea eagle,

    To be honest, the reason you aren’t seeing many lions is because you are near one of the most populated urban areas in America. I would bet there actually are cats in the Santa Ana’s, you just don’t see them. Near Fresno, I have seen a lion on a golf course in the foothills, so yes they are coming into areas they didn’t used to. We have also seen one cat in the coastal range on Diablo Grande golf course. Interestingly I go up hiking/fishing/hunting/ camping every other weekend or so and haven’t yet seen a lion above the evergreen treeline. Plenty of sign though, so I would imagine that one of the stealthiest hunters on earth is good at hiding from view. Bottom line is that if that cat doesn’t want you to see it, you won’t. Perhaps try some trail cams and patience.

  10. Rod

    I just do not understand the liberal mind….They want to protect the Mountain Lion but don’t care about the deer that are being masacred by the abundance lions. They want to demonize Christians and protect radical muslims. They do not want criminals to be excuted, but the innocent uborn are free game. They don’t want to eat meat, but killing a defensless plant is acceptable. They want to spend money we just do not have. I think Liberals live in upside down world!

  11. Eli

    Let’s parallel how bobcats decimate the quail population. Fish & Game have managed bobcat hunting; I trust they know what they’re doing. In fact, this year they’ve limited bobcat take by offering fewer tags for the money. No problem. If numbers decline a little, adjust accordingly. Still, we should let them determine lion numbers and offer tags accordingly. But, lawmakers get in the way of the real professionals who study, take data, protect and manage wildlife. Many lawmakers put forth legislation for political reasons before logical reasons. Many legislators don’t know the first thing about the outdoors let alone the frustration of public land hunters who year after year pay license, tags, supplies, gas, etc… and rarely see a chance to harvest a buck. Lions take around 1 million deer every 3 years. Can we compromise? Reduce lion populations to have a few less deer eaten by them and few more eaten by us. Let’s hear the opinion of Dept. Fish & Game on the issue.

  12. Many “Fish and Game”, personnel (regardless of which state they are in) do not know the first thing about the outdoors as well!

  13. GENO

    I’m a lifelong hunter, fisherman, and avid outdoorsman, and wildlife biology major. I can appreciate the fact that the lions are not in danger or currently threatened in California, but this article is back-asswards wrong regarding ecology. I’m not going to write an essay, but the claims put forward in this article are just as extreme as saying hunting should be illegal. You’re giving us all a bad name. Do your research first.

  14. Please show me your research. How many mule deer are there in California? How does that compare with the 1960′s? Are mule deer increasing or declining? How many mule deer are killed annually by lions in California? How many mule deer are killed annually by hunters in California? How many mule deer are killed by automobiles annually in California? How many mountain lions are currently living in the state of California? What is the recruitment and mortality of mountain lions in the state of California? If there is a greater threat to lions in California than lack of mule deer, what is it? How many pets, people, livestock and such are being attacked or killed by lions annually in the state of California?
    What is the proper ratio of lions to mule deer? At what point do mule deer become threatened vs. lions in respect to this ratio? I eagerly await your research.

  15. Pat

    I’m a life long hunter also. I have seen the deer population drastically fall. Some of this is accounting for lion population rebounds but mostly due to the urban expansion. There is many other factors of deer population decreases. We need real studies done by the California fish and game agency but unfortunately the trend of this agency is to funnel money to the California bureaucrats use and not for the environment. All, I can say is my raw data is my field observations over the past 20 years of hunting the same two areas in California and I have seen allot more mountain lions in the past ten years. In the past in a hunting season, I might have one sighting of a mountain lion all season. Last year 2012, I spotted a mountain lion or multiple lions about every two to three days while in the field. You don’t need a PHD in Environmental Biology to account for mountain lion increases. I believe that we should allow mountain lion hunting but it should be managed properly and that is the big problem with this states is environmental management.

  16. The population of mountain lions in California has likely never been higher. Deer populations tend to do well and sometimes better in housing developments than in the wild. One of the main reasons for this is that predators such as lions are less likely to consume them in such places. Human encroachment does not necessarily diminish deer herd numbers, but may make them less accessable. The key question in lion management is: How many is too many, and that revolves around another question: How many deer do we want going to the lions vs. how many to the humans. There are more deer killed on the roads, nowadays, than taken by hunters. Those killed by lions dwarfs hunting, road kill and all other causes of mortality. Keep thinking and keep observing. Best to you.


Leave a Reply