Articles, opinions, and editorials about mountain lions and the Mountain Lion Foundation.
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Nebraska's Bloody Year --11th Lion Killed and Counting (10/16/2014)
The carcass of a female mountain lion was found near the community of Ericson in Nebraska's eastern Sand Hills region.
According to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC), an investigation and forensic analysis is underway but they think that the animal may have been killed by a vehicle.
This lethal incident is significant because NGPC has officially estimated that there were only 22 mountain lions residing within the state, with only one known breeding female. This death now marks the 11th lion, and second female, killed in Nebraska so far this year - or 50 percent of the Commission's total population estimate.
If that estimate is even close to accurate, then Nebraska's burgeoning lion population is in trouble.
Earlier this year, State Senator Ernie Chambers authored a bill (LB 671) repealing NGPC's authority to establish mountain lion hunting seasons, but he was eventually unsuccessful in his efforts to protect Nebraska's lions when he couldn't garner sufficient support to override the governor's veto.
Senator Chambers has vowed to resume the repeal fight when the Legislature convenes in January.
To learn more, visit our Mountain Lions in Nebraska page.
(Article #1564) To read the actual news story click here...
Oregon Raises its Cougar Mortality Quota to an Unbelievable 970 (10/14/2014)
Last week the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission possibly made history by increasing that state's annual cougar mortality quota from 777 (one of the nation's highest) to an unbelievable 970.
The excuse for their action was "to reflect increasing cougar populations, more damage and public safety issues from cougar in some areas, and deer and elk populations that are below objectives in many areas."
In 1994, Oregon voters attempted to follow California's example of enacting cougar protection laws by passing Measure 18. This citizen-placed statewide initiative banned the use of hounds for hunting cougars and bears. The measure's proponents felt that this restriction would reduce the number of cougars killed in Oregon.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) responded to what they saw as a challenge to their authority by extending the cougar hunting season while reducing and discounting the cost of a cougar hunting tag. The result has been a dramatic increase in the number of cougar hunting tags sold, over 50,000 as of 2011, as well as an increase in the number of cougars killed by hunters each year.
With the adoption of a cougar management plan in 2006, ODFW raised the statewide cougar mortality quota by 16 percent from 668 to 777. The Department's explanation at the time for this increase was to "be consistent with population and conflict objectives adopted in the plan."
In addition to those individuals licensed to hunt cougars without hounds, ODFW also runs special "eradication" or "removal" hunts in key areas of the state that are not hampered by Measure 18's restrictions. These special hunts consistently account for as many if not more annual cougar deaths than by licensed cougar hunters.
As for the Commission's statement regarding "increasing cougar populations," the Mountain Lion Foundation and many other cougar protection proponents question the validity of Oregon's cougar population models.
In Washington, which has similar terrain and cougar hunting regulations, they are killing around 150 cougars per year, yet their cougar population has remained stable for decades. California, which lethally removes mountain lions for depredation on pets or livestock, kills around 100 lions per year. California's mountain lion population is declining in some regions of the state due to habitat loss and the hunting practices of neighboring states. Oregon kills over 500 cougars annually through licensed hunts and special removal programs, yet somehow, according to ODFW, Oregon's cougar population is steadily increasing.
Out of the three west coast states (Washington, Oregon, California) with viable cougar populations, only Oregon has repeatedly raised its cougar population estimate to justify the number of cougars killed each year.
Since Oregon has consistently fallen far short of the 777 cougar mortality number, and since the number of cougars killed by licensed hunters rarely surpasses the 250 mark, and because the Commission's statement referenced "deer and elk populations that are below objectives in many areas," it can only be surmised that increasing the cougar quota of 970 is their attempt to placate that special interest group and pave the way for an extreme increase in cougar mortalities as a result of Oregon's special cougar eradication programs.
Recreational hunting and eradication efforts are killing more Oregon cougars than ever before.
(Article #1563) To read the actual news story click here...
46M - the "Mountain View" Lion Killed by Automobile on California's I-280 (10/10/2014)
The young, radio collared, male mountain lion known as 46M first came to the public's attention last May after he hid for nine and 1/2 hours behind a small hedge on a busy Mountain View, California street. On that particular occasion, 46M was successfully tranquilized, captured and later released back into the wild with only lingering memories of the incident to take along with him on his journey to find a permanent home.
Since then, 46M, who first started traveling when he left his mother and litter mates near Big Basin Redwoods State Park last April, traveled north to the outskirts of Pacifica and Daly City, then onward to the Devils Slide area on the California coast, followed by a stay near Crystal Springs Reservoir, before heading back south, where he was killed trying to recross Interstate 280 just north of the Edgewood Road exit, between Highways 84 and 92.
"It's sad when this happens to an animal," said Paul Houghtaling, the field project manager for the Santa Cruz Puma Project. "The younger ones have left home and are forced to live on the margins, crossing roads a lot as they look for a new home."
"Looking at the places he's been, it doesn't strike me as prime lion country," Houghtaling added. "He was living quite close to a lot of people in Daly City and Pacifica. Despite how close he was to people, he didn't cause any harm to anyone and I find that quite fascinating."
46M's twisted journey isn't unusual for dispersing mountain lions. Male lions, especially those born in the Santa Cruz Mountains, which are isolated on three sides by water and urban areas, have to travel long, often hazardous, miles to find adequate lion habitat which isn't already taken.
Houghtaling said the plight of 46M offers a valuable lesson. "We were able to track this cat from when he was with his mom to when he was looking for territory of his own," he said. "It's sad how it ended, but it gives us insight on how mountain lions live and what they have to deal with."
(Article #1562) To read the actual news story click here...
Wandering Lion Captured and Released in Fort Collins, Colorado (10/8/2014)
Monday afternoon, Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife (CDPW) officers caught a 1 1/2 year old female mountain lion who had wandered into a Fort Collins, Colorado neighborhood.
The young dispersing mountain lion was tranquilized and captured a few blocks away from the Colorado State University campus.
CDPW spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill said that the lion was checked for injuries and general health, and then released back into wild habitat located west of the city.
(Article #1561) To read the actual news story click here...
Nebraska Hunters Kill Another Mountain Lion (10/7/2014)
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reported that a hunter made history Sunday when he killed a 157-pound male mountain lion near Lewis and Clark Lake in Knox County, Nebraska.
His action made this the first mountain lion killed outside the Pine Ridge lion hunting unit during Nebraska's inaugural lion hunting season.
Nebraska is divided into four lion hunting units: the Pine Ridge, Keya Paha, Upper Platte, and Prairie. Pine Ridge, the small unit closest to South Dakota's Black Hills, is the hunting unit where lion hunters are most likely to find and kill a mountain lion. That unit also restricts the lion hunting season to between January 1 and March 31, and limits the number of lions killed to four, half of which can be breeding females.
The Prairie Unit, where this particular lion was killed, covers 85 percent of the state, allows unlimited kills and runs year-long.
It's unknown as to exactly why the big, mature Tom had left his established territory, but he had successfully made it out of South Dakota's "Killing Fields" in the Black Hills region of that state, and by following the Missouri River wildlife corridor had almost made it all the way to the Iowa border before being shot and killed as a trophy.
Visit the Nebraska Game and Parks website for more information. (Article #1560) To read the actual news story click here...
Santa Cruz Puma Project Looking at Mountain Lion Energetics (10/2/2014)
This story was originally posted online at Phys.org as Study of mountain lion energetics shows the power of the pounce. Visit Santa Cruz Pumas for more information on this research project.
Scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, using a new wildlife tracking collar they developed, were able to continuously monitor the movements of mountain lions in the wild and determine how much energy the big cats use to stalk, pounce, and overpower their prey.
The research team's findings, published October 3 in Science, help explain why most cats use a "stalk and pounce" hunting strategy. The new "SMART" wildlife collar-equipped with GPS, accelerometers, and other high-tech features-tells researchers not just where an animal is but what it is doing and how much its activities "cost" in terms of energy expenditure.
"What's really exciting is that we can now say, here's the cost of being a mountain lion in the wild and what they need in terms of calories to live in this environment," said first author Terrie Williams, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz. "Understanding the energetics of wild animals moving in complex environments is valuable information for developing better wildlife management plans."
The researchers were able to quantify, for example, the high energetic costs of traveling over rugged terrain compared to the low cost of "cryptic" hunting behaviors such as sit-and-wait or stalk-and-ambush movements. During the actual pounce and kill, the cats invest a lot of energy in a short time to overpower their prey. Data from the collars showed that mountain lions adjust the amount of energy they put into the initial pounce to account for the size of their prey.
"They know how big a pounce they need to bring down prey that are much bigger than themselves, like a full-grown buck, and they'll use a much smaller pounce for a fawn," Williams said.
Before Williams and her team could interpret the data from collars deployed on wild mountain lions, however, they first had to perform calibration studies with mountain lions in captivity. This meant, among other things, training mountain lions to walk and run on a treadmill and measuring their oxygen consumption at different activity levels. Those studies took a bit longer than planned.
"People just didn't believe you could get a mountain lion on a treadmill, and it took me three years to find a facility that was willing to try," Williams said.
Finally, she met Lisa Wolfe, a veterinarian with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, who had three captive mountain lions (siblings whose mother had been killed by a hunter) at a research facility near Fort Collins, Colorado. After eight months of training by Wolfe, the mountain lions were comfortable on the treadmill and Williams started collecting data.
According to Williams, the treadmill data showed that mountain lions do not have the aerobic capacity for sustained, high-energy activity. "They are power animals. They have a slow routine walking speed and use a burst of speed and the force of the pounce to knock down or overpower their prey," she said.
In addition to the treadmill studies, the captive cats were videotaped wearing the collars while doing a wide range of activities in a large outdoor enclosure. This provided a library of collar acceleration signatures specific for different behaviors, from resting and grooming to running and pouncing. "We got all the different behaviors videotaped and analyzed with the corresponding accelerometer traces," Williams said.
Meanwhile, coauthor Chris Wilmers led a team that deployed the collars on wild cats in the Santa Cruz mountains. Wilmers, an associate professor of environmental studies at UC Santa Cruz, leads the Santa Cruz Puma Project, which has been tracking mountain lions in the area to study the effects of habitat fragmentation and developing new technology for understanding the animals' behavior and energetics.
"Because mountain lions are a cryptic animal, we can't really observe them hunting and killing prey. With the SMART collars, we can see how they go about doing that, what their strategies are, and how many calories they are expending to do it," Wilmers said. "The ability to estimate the field energetics of animals in the wild opens up a whole new suite of questions we can ask about the ecology of these animals, which ultimately informs not only our basic understanding of them but also their conservation and management."
Coauthor Gabriel Elkaim, professor of computer engineering at UCSC's Baskin School of Engineering, worked on signal processing of the accelerometer data and is continuing to develop the state-of-the-art tracking collars. The prototype used in this study, called the Species Movement, Acceleration, and Radio Tracking (SMART) wildlife collar, was developed by computer engineering graduate student Matthew Rutishauser. The collars include a GPS unit, accelerometers, and a magnetometer to provide detailed data on where an animal is and what it is doing. "We hope this will be an enabling technology to allow a much greater depth of understanding of animals in the wild," Elkaim said.
The researchers now want to look at mountain lion energetics in a range of different habitat types. In particular, Wilmers said, he is interested in how human land use and habitat fragmentation may be influencing the energetic demands on mountain lions in the wild. Williams and her students also have projects using the new collar technology to study other large carnivores, including wolves, polar bears, and Weddell seals.
"A lot of these large carnivore species are threatened or endangered, and understanding their physiological limitations has been a big missing piece in conservation planning," Williams said. "This technology gives us a whole new level understanding of what these animals are doing and what it costs them to live in the wild, and that can really help move the science of conservation forward."
For more information, visit SantaCruzPumas.org.
(Article #1559) To read the actual news story click here...
Scared Mountain Lion Captured in Salt Lake City Neighborhood (9/22/2014)
Late Sunday afternoon, several residents spotted a mountain lion wandering about in a Salt Lake City, Utah neighborhood. Local police and representatives from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) responded, but despite an intensive 90-minute search were unable to locate the animal.
Then, approximately 30-minutes after the officers had dispersed, another call came in from the same neighborhood stating that the lion was hiding behind a garage.
Police officers along with UDWR officials returned to the scene and attempted to contain the situation while the scared cat tried to flee the area.
According to Salt Lake Police Lt. Carl Merino, "The cat started running all over the neighborhood as we tried to close in on it."
Officers began chasing the lion on foot and shot it with a tranquilizer as it ran away. After losing sight of the animal a second time, a resident spotted the lion heading east and reported that sighting to a passing officer.
After a lengthy search, Salt Lake City police officers eventually located the drugged mountain lion around 9 p.m. asleep in a yard.
"It pretty well consumed our afternoon," Lt. Merino said.
The sleeping lion was removed by members of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, who planned on keeping the mountain lion overnight so its body heat could be regulated and its health monitored for adverse affects from the tranquilizer drug.
Lt. Merino indicated that he did not know where UDWR officials will release the lion Monday but, he said, "Hopefully [it's] way out away from town."
See Fox's News Coverage:
(Article #1558) To read the actual news story click here...
UPDATED: California DFW Confirms DNA of Killed Lion (9/12/2014)
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife's forensics lab has finished processing the DNA and has confirmed that the lion killed on Wednesday was in fact the same lion that injured a boy last Sunday.
Results from the UC Davis California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory also showed the cat tested negative for rabies.
Wednesday afternoon, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) wardens killed a mountain lion that is believed to have injured a six-year-old boy while he was hiking with his family last Sunday in the Picchetti Ranch Open Space Preserve.
In an effort to remove what authorities saw as an active threat to humans, personnel from CDFW and U.S. Wildlife Services searched for the lion for four days with tracking hounds and set up cameras and baited-cage traps in the area.
On Wednesday afternoon, search dogs began following fresh lion tracks within a mile of where the boy was jumped and officers believed they were on the trail of the right cat. The dogs located and treed a young male lion 70 feet up a tree.
The Department's initial plan was to tranquilize any mountain lion they came across during the search, test DNA to compare with evidence left on the boy's clothing, and only kill the cat responsible for Sunday's incident.
However, after the long chase they didn't want to risk this cat getting away and because he was perched so high up the tree, "Tranquilizing it was not a reasonable option and the fall would have killed it anyway," CDFW spokesman Patrick Foy said in a statement released Wednesday.
"No one at the department wanted to destroy this animal but protecting public safety is a first and foremost priority."
Foy added, "Authorities will conduct a complete necropsy, making the rabies test a priority as well as the gathering of additional forensic information to assess the health of the cat."
The Department feels confident they have killed the right mountain lion, with Foy saying "I think it's very, very highly likely, but we can't put a 100 percent stamp on it until we get the DNA," Foy said.
The Mountain Lion Foundation hopes the Department's assessment was correct and the DNA results match. It's an unfortunate situation that a lion has to be killed, but it would be a terrible tragedy if the wrong lion was forced to pay the price.
(Article #1557) To read the actual news story click here...
South Dakota authorities kill another lion for behaving naturally (9/10/2014)
Late Monday night, a Pennington County sheriff's deputy shot and killed a mountain lion after the animal was spotted dragging a raccoon through a residential area in the small rural town of Keystone, South Dakota — population 337.
When the deputy responded to the call he found the young lion eating the raccoon it had captured in an alley behind a business. The South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks was contacted and asked for advice on how to handle the situation, because the lion had killed an animal in a populated area and was still near homes.
On their orders, the deputy shot and killed the lion. No consideration was given to the fact that the animal killed was the lion's natural prey and not a domestic pet or livestock.
Keystone, South Dakota.
(Article #1555) To read the actual news story click here...
6-Year Old Boy Injured by a Lion in Mountains west of San Jose (9/8/2014)
A six-year old boy was injured by a mountain lion while hiking with family and friends in the Picchetti Ranch Open Space Preserve in the mountains west of San Jose, California Sunday afternoon.
A LION HAS BEEN KILLED, CLICK HERE FOR THE UPDATED NEWS STORY
The young boy, who suffered scratches and bite wounds to his head and neck area, was saved by his father and another male adult who shouted and acted aggressively towards the lion. The boy was later taken to the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center for treatment of his serious but non-life threatening puncture wounds and released the next day.
According to Lt. Patrick Foy, of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), mountain lion attacks on humans are "quite rare," and "people are far more likely to be attacked by a dog."
Foy also said, mountain lions are "solitary and elusive," and tend to avoid humans. However the public should be careful about potential encounters. About half of California is mountain lion habitat, and the animal is particularly prevalent in areas frequented by deer, its preferred prey.
The quick reaction on the part of the two men Sunday reinforces useful advice given by both the Mountain Lion Foundation and CDFW.
According to the CDFW, this attack is only the 14th verified lion attack on humans in California since 1986. Three of those attacks were fatal.
At this time, CDFW wardens are searching the area with hounds in an effort to locate the lion. If the DNA sample from the lion's saliva on the boy's torn shirt matches that of any lion captured, it will be killed in the interest of public safety.
MLF's thoughts go out to the boy and his family. We wish him a speedy recovery.
(Article #1554) To read the actual news story click here...
Colorado Wildlife Officials Capture and Release a Lost Lion (9/3/2014)
Tuesday morning, a young female mountain lion awoke in the tree she had settled down in the night before, only to find herself in the middle of a Lakewood, Colorado subdivision.
When Colorado Parks and Wildlife wardens arrived on scene, the young lion weighing approximately 60 to 70 pounds decided that it was time to leave and led them on a short chase before being tranquilized and captured.
According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife's spokeswoman, Jennifer Churchill, no one was hurt during the incident and based on the Department's mountain lion relocation policy the animal received an ear-tag and was moved to a suitable release location west of town.
Lakewood is located a few miles west of Denver, Colorado.
Watch NBC's Coverage:
(Article #1553) To read the actual news story click here...
Montana Firefighter recounts rescuing mountain lion cubs from blaze (9/2/2014)
The following story was originally written by Dillon Kato and posted on-line on the Missoulian website - Photographs posted by Elizabeth Shellenbarger/ Bitterroot National Forest Helitack
One of the firefighters on the crew that found a pair of mountain lion cubs in a fire near Florence [Montana] said she's glad both animals got out of the situation unharmed.
Elizabeth Shellenbarger, a member of the Bitterroot National Forest Helitack crew based in Hamilton that was one of the first teams to respond to the Three Mile fire, said she was on the ground Friday afternoon digging a fire line when her crew started hearing noises.
"We kept hearing a sound, it sounded like a bird crying," she said.
Minutes later, one of the seven-member crew yelled out to the others that they had found a baby mountain lion. Shellenbarger said it was in some thick brush by a log that was on fire. The crew grabbed the animal, and then called in a bucket drop from a helicopter, which doused the area with 600 gallons of water.
"Right after the water hit the ground, we realized there was a second kitten that got hit by the brunt of it," Shellenbarger said.
The fire crew recovered the second cub, which she said had started to roll down the hill, mixed up in the mud and water from the drop. Shellenbarger said it's unusual for crews working a fire to see much wildlife, especially so close.
"We were wondering where the mom was, that was kind of the dangerous part of it, if she had come back and we're there between her and her kids," she said.
The helitack crew called a dispatch center, which got in touch with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, who sent a warden out to retrieve the two cubs.
Shellenbarger and the team she was with hiked out from the fire line to where their vehicles were parked.
"We sat in the sun and helped dry them off. The one that got hit by water was pretty caked in mud, and he was shivering the whole walk out," she said.
Bitterroot National Forest spokesman Tod McKay said Montana FWP brought the animals, both males that are just one or two weeks old, to its Montana Wildlife Center in Helena, where the agency rehabilitates orphaned, injured and displaced wildlife. No decisions have been made yet on when or if the cubs can be re-released into the wild.
Shellenbarger said she was told the mother of the mountain lion cubs was possibly seen around the fire area Saturday, but Shellenbarger said she wasn't sure what would happen to the young mountain lions now.
"They may try bringing the kittens back, put them back in the place where we found them," she said.
McKay said as of Sunday, the Three Mile fire, about nine miles east of Florence, was fully contained and had not grown since it started Friday. The fire is still at 48 acres, and he said fire engines and crews were finishing up mop up work, but he expected them to be released by the end of the day Sunday.
McKay confirmed Sunday that the fire was human caused. Investigators were at the scene where the fire started gathering information and evidence.
(Article #1552) To read the actual news story click here...
Mountain Lions, Bears, and Wolves Gain Protection in Illinois (8/27/2014)
SPRINGFIELD, IL - The gray wolf, American black bear and mountain lion (cougar) will come under the protection of the Illinois Wildlife Code on Jan. 1, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller announced Monday. Senate Bill 3049, signed by Gov. Pat Quinn, gives the IDNR the authority to manage these species for the protection of both wildlife and public safety. All three species were present when settlers arrived in Illinois, but were all but gone from the state by the mid-1800s. Due to improved legal protections and habitat restoration, these species are returning to some of their former range in the eastern United States.
"Wolves, mountain lions and black bears have been absent from Illinois for more than 150 years. As the populations of these animals continue to grow, we expect to see occasional individuals dispersing from their current ranges into Illinois," said IDNR Director Marc Miller. "I want to thank Governor Quinn and bill sponsors Sen. Linda Holmes and Rep. Kelly Cassidy for their leadership. This law gives the Department the ability to create long-term management goals and to draft response protocols on managing human-wildlife conflicts with these three species."
SB 3049 allows landowners to take a black bear or mountain lion if there is an imminent threat to lives and property. The law also allows landowners to apply for a nuisance permit to remove an animal that is not an immediate threat. The gray wolf already receives legal protection in Illinois from both the U.S. and Illinois Endangered Species Acts. In these instances, endangered species law will be followed. Due to its federal protection, rules for taking a gray wolf south of Interstate 80 are more stringent. South of Interstate 80, gray wolves may not be taken unless they present an imminent threat to people. Any other taking requires state and federal permits.
COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT SB3049:
IS ILLINOIS ENCOURAGING THE RETURN OF LARGE PREDATORS?
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is not actively working to restore gray wolves, American black bears or mountain lions to Illinois. However, IDNR recognizes that occasional individual animals are likely to make their way here. A month-long visit to northern Illinois by a black bear in June 2014 demonstrated the benefits of cooperation among state and local government entities in monitoring the bear, but allowing it to remain a wild animal. The passage of SB3049 is a first necessary step that allows the Department to develop formal rules and protocols to manage these species.
WHAT WILL IDNR DO TO MANAGE WOLVES, BEARS AND MOUNTAIN LIONS?
Right now, IDNR biologists and the Illinois Conservation Police are working together to develop protocols for addressing interactions between people and wolves, bears and mountain lions. Conservation Police will share this information with local law enforcement agencies, the likely first-responders in the event of a sighting or nuisance call. Currently, Illinois Conservation Police officers are allowing these animals to go on their way unless they pose a threat.
WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF POPULATIONS OF WOLVES, BLACK BEARS AND MOUNTAIN LIONS BECOMING ESTABLISHED IN ILLINOIS?
Re-colonization by these species is possible, although Illinois has relatively little suitable habitat in large enough blocks to support these animals. According to habitat models, only about 14.7 percent of Illinois’ area is suitable for black bears, 6.6 percent for mountain lions and 14 percent for gray wolves.
WHAT CAN ILLINOIS RESIDENTS DO TO BE PREPARED FOR ENCOUNTERS WITH THESE SPECIES?
Property owners can avoid encounters with wildlife by securing potential food sources, including pet food, barbecue grills, trash and other sources. Bird feeders can be taken down temporarily in the event of a local sighting.
(Article #1551) To read the actual news story click here...
North Dakota's mountain lion population declining (8/21/2014)
The following story was written by Brian Gehring and originally posted by the Bismark Tribune
A cooperative study with the Game and Fish Department and South Dakota State University is entering its fourth year. Data from the first three years indicates North Dakota's breeding population of mountain lions is confined to the northern portion of the Badlands.
A multi-year study tracking North Dakota's mountain lion population indicates the number of big cats is trending downward.
In August 2011, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, in conjunction with South Dakota State University, embarked on a $218,000 study funded by Pittman-Roberston excise tax money.
Stephanie Tucker, furbearer biologist for the Game and Fish Department, said the first phase of the study is in the books and a new three-year follow-up study will be launched this fall.
North Dakota is entering its 10th year of managed mountain lion hunting. This year, the season opens Aug. 29.
Tucker said one of the most effective methods of gathering data - particularly when dealing with a species new to certain areas - is to open a season on them.
"It's kind of a reactive way to manage," she said. Animals that have been hunted and harvested provide solid information like feeding habits and genetic background.
For the past decade or longer, mountain lions have been breeding in the state but also have been immigrating from South Dakota's Black Hills.
Data from the study also has indicated at least two male lions have moved in from eastern Montana.
The first phase of the study tracked 22 mountain lions that were captured and either fitted with radio collars or ear tags.
Tucker said it focused on studying survival rates, food habits and home range and movement patterns compared to mountain lions in other areas of North America.
Of the 22 cats captured, seven males and seven females were fitted with radio collars and seven males and one female were ear-tagged.
Tucker said 18 of the cats that were captured for the study are confirmed dead by hunters or other means and the fate of the remaining four is not known.
The first year of the hunting season (2005-06), seven mountains were killed. The next four seasons, 11-12 cats were killed, until the 2010-11 season when 22 were killed.
The high came in 2011-12, when 31 cats were taken. The last two seasons, there have been 23 and 20 mountain lions killed, respectively. Tucker said those numbers reflect all forms of mortality, whether from hunters, road kill or protection of property.
Tucker said the first split season was three years ago, when seven animals were held back from the Zone 1 season quota for those hunting with hounds.
The state is divided into two mountain lion zones. Zone 1 is the Badlands area and Zone 2 is remainder of the state.
The Zone 1 season closes Nov. 23 or when the 14-cat quota is reached, leaving the remaining seven in the quota for hound hunters, although any hunters can hunt them.
There is no quota for Zone 2.
Tucker said data shows that until 2011, the mountain lion population in Zone 1 was increasing. But that has changed, she said.
"We've been declining the last three years," she said. Part of that has had to do with the success of those hunting with hounds.
"Hound hunters are still having a lot of success," she said. "We know our harvest season is having an impact."
Conversely, Tucker said, those hunting without dogs are having less success than in previous years.
Tucker said data from the first three years of the study indicates the survival rate of the North Dakota mountain lion population is significantly lower than other states.
She said lions here showed a survival rate of 42 percent for two years following their capture and tagging. That compares to survival rates of 59 percent in the Pacific Northwest, 64-74 percent in Utah and 67-97 percent in Canada where similar studies have been conducted.
At least part of that may be attributed to the fact that mountain lions' primary range in North Dakota, the Badlands, is a relatively small and closed system.
Tucker said it also suggests the state's population is lower than originally thought.
As far as feeding habits, lions rely mainly on deer - mulies and white tails - for most of their diet.
Porcupines and beaver, however, also play a significant role in the makeup of mountain lion diets.
John Jenks, the principal investigator at SDSU, said that is not a big surprise because lions are known to scavenge whatever food is readily available.
"Porcupines are classic prey for mountain lions in South Dakota," he said.
Jenks said the lions in the Black Hills turned to stalking deer for food after they had thinned out the porcupine numbers.
And, with larger prey, Jenks said, the success rate for kills is not all that high due to the method in which they hunt.
Mountain lions prefer to ambush their prey from a high vantage point to get a running start.
He said the scavenge rate for North Dakota lions in the study was around 7 percent of their diet, on par with lions in other states.
He said interestingly, mountain lions here don't tend to hunt larger animals like bighorn sheep or elk.
Jenks said lions are solitary hunters and it may be they haven't yet figured out how to kill larger prey.
He added that based on a small population sample of lions studies, predation on livestock appeared to be minimal.
Jenks said there has been some evidence of lions feeding on livestock, but it's not known if the lions killed or scavenged the carcasses.
He said there also has been evidence of lions killing coyotes and of injuries to the cats themselves, likely from territorial disputes between males.
He said the second phase of the study will focus more on habitat selection and validate population data and home range and survival rates from the first study.
Tucker said male lions in the Badlands have been shown to have a home range twice that of females - about 89 square miles compared to 42 - which is on the lower end of scale in comparison to other states.
Jenks said the immigration of two males from the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge near Fort Peck, Montana, is a positive for Badlands population - at least from a genetic diversity standpoint. The first phase of the study has shown mountain lions are breeding only in the northern portion of the Badlands.
Tucker said the next three years of the study will include an SDSU graduate student, the second student working on a master's degree, on the ground in North Dakota.
She said the goal is to capture and track more lions to add to the data from the first three years.
"We'd love to get another 22 cats, but we'll take what we can get," Tucker said.
As far as any conclusive findings early on, Tucker said the study may indicate North Dakota's mountain lion population may never be able to support a hunting season with a higher quota.
(Article #1548) To read the actual news story click here...
Mountain lion removed from Rosamond backyard (8/16/2014)
The following story is a repost from the Antelope Valley Times in Southern California.
ROSAMOND — A mountain lion spotted in a Rosamond backyard Friday morning was safely removed by state wildlife officers and returned to suitable habitat, authorities said.
Around 9:30 a.m., the California Department of Fish and Wildlife received a call about a mountain lion near a home on Birch Street, according to Public Information Officer Andrew Hughan.
"Our dispatch center contacted a warden in the Palmdale/Lancaster area. They went up, and in the backyard of the house, up in a pine tree, there was a mountain lion," Hughan said.
"They put a tranquilizer dart into her and secured her."
Hughan said the two-year-old female weighs about 80 pounds and is in pretty good condition.
"They gave her a quick check up, put her in the back of the truck and returned her to suitable habitat," he said.
"The warden thinks that it came out of the Tehachapi Mountains or maybe Tejon Ranch, which would be the nearest suitable habitat for a lion," Hughan continued.
"It's a little unusual, but not unprecedented at all."
(Article #1549) To read the actual news story click here...
Six Colorado Big Game Hunting Guides Accused of Trapping and Injuring Lions for an Easier Kill (8/13/2014)
Two Colorado big game hunting guides, Christopher Loncarich, 55, of Mack Colorado and his partner Nicolaus Rodgers of Shady Cove, Oregon, who were part of an outfitter's group of Western-slope guides that led expensive mountain lion hunts around the Book Cliffs Mountains on the Utah border are charged with 17 counts of violating Federal wildlife crimes.
The two are accused of trapping mountain lions in Utah between 2007 and 2009, bringing them across the border into Colorado to be hunted by clients (many of whom were unlicensed "poachers") paying between $3,500 and $7,500 each for the experience, and making sure the lions couldn't escape beforehand by wounding them in the leg or keeping them in place with a leg-hold snare.
Their arrest came about as part of a lengthy investigation by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife with assistance from the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife.
According to Dean Riggs with the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife "I would say this is probably one of the more egregious situations that I have seen in more than 20 years of doing this. We in society expect people to follow laws and to do this in a 'fair chase' sort of manner."
Mr. Rodger and four other members of the outfitting group have plead guilty to violating the Lacey Act. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, "the Lacey Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to knowingly transport or sell in interstate commerce any wildlife that has been taken or possessed in violation of state laws or regulations."
The maximum penalty for conspiring to violate the Lacey Act is up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The Loncarich and Rodgers case may be an especially extreme one, but this type of crime is not unheard of in the U.S. Last month the Oregonian reported that Bend, Oregon resident Alan Aronson and his wife were two of 23 people arrested by the Oregon State Police in a massive poaching investigation.
Aronson admitted that he had been "taking people on illegal hunts for elk and buffalo on another person's ranch without the owner's consent," didn't have a license to run that type of business, and that many of his paying customers didn't even have licenses to hunt.
(Article #1547) To read the actual news story click here...
Safari Club International Sues California over Mountain Lion Possession Ban (8/12/2014)
Claiming that Proposition 117's import ban - Section 4800 of California's Fish and Game Code - violates the Constitution's Commerce Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, Safari Club International (SCI) recently filed suit against California State Attorney General Kamala Harris, in Federal Court.
The California Fish and Game Code SCI is challenging, 4800 (b) (1), states that "It is unlawful to take, injure, possess, transport, import, or sell any mountain lion or any part or product thereof, except as specifically provided in this chapter . . ."
This section of Proposition 117 - the California Wildlife Protection Act of 1990 - was intended, in part, to assist the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) in stopping the illegal black market trade in biologicals - or in other words, mountain lion parts.
If repealed the illegal poaching of mountain lions in California can be expected to skyrocket and CDFW's law enforcement efforts crippled since no one could easily prove that the lion carcass in question was not legally killed and then brought in from out of state.
This is not the first time SCI has tried to stop or overturn the 1990 citizen-placed initiative to protect California's mountain lions. The Club's most notable efforts were its opposition to Proposition 117's passage in 1990, and SCI's own competing initiative (Proposition 197) which failed at the ballot box in 1996.
(Article #1546) To read the actual news story click here...
South Dakota Stifles Public Opinion for the 2014-15 Lion Hunting Season (8/7/2014)
Despite a dwindling mountain lion hunting success rate, South Dakota's Game, Fish & Parks Department is not recommending any changes in hunting quota levels for the upcoming 2014-15 season to the Commission when it meets today.
The Department's decision means there will be no public hearing or discussion on the accuracy of the state game agency's lion population model or whether South Dakota's mountain lion population is under duress from previous management decisions.
During South Dakota's 2011-12 hunting season, 73 mountain lions were killed. Forty-six of those were female lions which also created an unknown number of orphaned kittens.
In 2012-13, the mortality level dropped to 61 (35 females) despite an increase in the quota.
Although last year the Commission dropped the hunting quota back to 75, hunters didn't even come close to that number, killing only 55 lions, 33 of which were females.
Many of the opponents to South Dakota's mountain lion hunting policies are disappointed over the Department's tactic to suppress the public's voice and wonder what it will take for South Dakota to accept a "real" science-based mountain lion management plan.
(Article #1545) To read the actual news story click here...
Drought driving mountain lions, coyotes into foothill communities (8/5/2014)
The Following Story is a repost from the San Bernardino Sun and the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin written by Doug Saunders, of the San Bernardino Sun, and Liset Marquez, and Greg Cappis of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Posted: 08/01/14, 9:56 PM PDT
Mountain lions indigenous to life in the foothills are making their way into neighborhoods, possibly looking for food and water.
The cougars are likely following their main food source, deer, into urban areas after fires and drought have diminished their mountainside resources, according to Tim Dunbar, executive director of the Sacramento-based Mountain Lion Foundation.
"That sort of exacerbates your problem," he said. "The fire and drought keeps reducing the amount of space that the mountain lions and deer have to travel, so they're getting more and more into human developed areas."
Steven Silva, who has a 3-year-old daughter, has lived in Rancho Cucamonga on and off for most of his life. He said he heard about a mountain lion sighting a couple of weeks ago on Somerset Drive, just around the block from his house.
Silva, 35, said he is not too concerned about his safety but thinks the Etiwanda Fire may have affected the cougars' food and water supply.
"They would pop up every once in a while, a couple of times a year, but I'm not too concerned," Silva said. "This is their area, we are living in their area, so it's up to us to kind of manage it and be conscientious of them, stay out of their way, and hope they don't come down too far."
Dunbar said residents can help keep the lions away by removing from their yards potential prey and items that may attract wildlife.
He suggested keeping pets indoors at night - mountain lions' most active hunting time - and getting rid of water troughs that may attract deer or other animals onto their property.
"Once again if you're keeping a food source near your house, you're possibly inviting the predators in," Dunbar said.
But for Mary and Fred Gilley, who live in the 8900 block of Manzanita Court, the mountain lions have already come too close to home. The couple lost their eight-year-old poodle, Lady, to a mountain lion around 9:30 p.m. July 25.
The big cat was first sighted at a house across from the horse trail next to the Gilleys' back yard, Fred said.
Shortly after that, the couple said, their dogs started to bark and went outside.
"They ran out the door, and they knew something was out there and were barking furiously," he said. "Well, the mountain lion must've heard them and I think it jumped over the 10-foot wall, came in and snatched her and then took off."
Similar situations have occurred in other parts of the Southland.
Sitting on the outskirts of Los Angeles, bordering the Verdugo Mountains and filled with television studios and some of the Hollywood elite, sits Burbank where one homeowner recently captured a pack of coyotes on video outside his home.
The homeowner, Nick Mendoza, said the pack of more than a dozen coyotes seemed like they were on the hunt for food.
Another area homeowner captured footage of the pack July 16 and put the video on YouTube.com.
In June, Burbank also had two sightings of mountain lions and sent out warnings to residents on how to deal with the wildcats if they come across one in their neighborhoods.
"They're looking for food and water," said one Burbank police officer. "The drought is pushing them into neighborhoods. It's a survival instinct for them."
But residents can exhale a bit, knowing cougars do not instinctively hunt humans.
"We don't look right," said Dunbar, the mountain lion expert. "We're standing up on two legs."
But the big cats are opportunistic hunters and running past or away from them could incite their predatory instincts, he said.
If you see a mountain lion, experts say to make yourself look big and intimidating - raise your arms, open your jacket, start yelling, jump up and down, maybe hurl a rock in the animal's direction.
"They can't afford to be injured and take risks or else they won't be able to hunt," Dunbar said, so they normally retreat after feeling threatened.
Regardless, interactions with mountain lions can leave lasting impacts.
The Gilleys have lived in their home since October and this was first time they've had to deal with mountain lions. The couple moved from the Bay Area to Rancho Cucamonga but used to live in Upland, Mary said.
"It's just unnerving me so bad because I don't want to lose him too," she said, referring to two-year-old Cole, the son of Lady.
Fred said he went out to the back yard with a flashlight and tried looking for her dog. They called the Sheriff's Department, which had already been called, and three units were out patrolling the streets and the horse trail behind their home.
"I called the police on Saturday, and they told me they didn't find anything," he said. "It's strange to me that the lion came all the way down from the foothills and came back up and no one saw it at all."
While Mary shared memories of her gray showdog poodle, Cole ran circles around her. For the first few days after the incident with Lady, Mary said Cole would not leave her side.
Since then the couple have brought in all the water bowls into the house and no longer let Cole out after dusk. If they do, it is only in the front yard and he is on a leash.
"I'm scared to death because I don't want to lose Cole," Mary said, "and I don't want us to be attacked, too."
(Article #1544) To read the actual news story click here...
A Nebraska Rancher is Generating Irrational Fears Against Mountain Lions (7/30/2014)
Despite evidence to the contrary, a rancher who lives near the rural community of Ainsworth, Nebraska is spouting stories about marauding mountain lions and continuing his private campaign to generate public fear and hostility against these much maligned animals.
The rancher claims that two of his horses sustained serious injuries from a mountain lion on the night on June 30th. A Nebraska Game and Parks warden investigated and concluded from the evidence available that the injuries sustained by the horses were a result of contact with a barbed-wire fence.
"We did not find any evidence of mountain lion presence or attack on the horses," said Sam Wilson, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission's Furbearing and Nongame Mammals Program Manager. "All injuries to the horses were consistent with entanglement on barbed wire. That is exactly what we found during our investigation. We saw an area where the grass was trampled, it had blood, hair, and flesh and part of a fly mask from the injured horses on the barbed wire. We also looked for tracks and any evidence of mountain lions was not found. We set up cameras and did not get any pictures of mountain lions."
While admitting that his horse's injuries could have been caused by barbed wire, the rancher still insists that a mountain lion spooked his horses and refuses to believe that other animals such as coyotes, or a pack of domestic dogs were involved.
Sam Wilson said that even if there were mountain lions they pose little to no threat to livestock.
"Mountain lion attacks on any livestock are rare. It is even more rare for horses. We have had very few problems with depredation where livestock are injured by an attack by a mountain lion. We have investigated 120 cases where a livestock owner believes livestock may have been injured by a mountain lion. In only one case have we found evidence of a mountain lion."
This story was originally reported on by Kent Winder of KNOP Channel 2 News - Nebraska.
(Article #1543) To read the actual news story click here...
Researchers Examine Mountain Lion Population Dynamics and Disease (7/29/2014)
The following story was written by Jeff Dodge, Colorado State University
A Colorado State University research team is examining how illnesses are transmitted in mountain lion populations in an effort to manage future outbreaks of diseases, such as feline leukemia virus, that could threaten the species.
Susan VandeWoude, a research veterinarian and associate dean for research in the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is leading a team that recently received $2 million from the National Science Foundation for a five-year study of the big cats.
The project is expected to shed light on the complex outcomes of human impact - both wildlife-management practices and land development - for a particularly sensitive species of wild cats in the United States. These interwoven consequences, which the scientists have identified through earlier research, include changes in puma populations, population movement and disease dynamics that could have implications for pumas and other cat species, including housecats.
The new research is designed to further understand how people affect puma movements in the wild and the way that disease travels through populations, providing insight about wildlife management used from Florida to California.
For example, when an endangered subspecies called the Florida panther was nearing extinction in the Everglades in the mid-1990s, wildlife managers imported Texas cougars to breed with their cousins. Managers hoped to rebuild the population. For the most part, it worked: Officials estimated last year that this cat population is about five times larger than it was two decades ago.
Other states have used different tactics to deal with the species referred to interchangeably as pumas, cougars or mountain lions. California has banned the hunting of pumas for decades. Hunters on Colorado's Western Slope are asked to avoid killing female lions in places with low population.
Joining VandeWoude in the interdisciplinary research at CSU are Kevin Crooks, a professor in the Warner College of Natural Resources, and Chris Funk, an associate professor in the College of Natural Sciences.
Each researcher brings distinctive expertise to the project: VandeWoude is an authority on feline diseases; her discoveries include uncovering a new family of feline herpesviruses that infects housecats, pumas and bobcats. Crooks, a wildlife ecologist, specializes in the effects of manmade disturbances on the natural world, so he is focusing on how puma habitat and travel corridors have been affected by urban and housing development.
"Large carnivores like pumas tend to be especially sensitive to human impacts," Crooks said. "They're often the first to feel the effects, like a canary in the coal mine."
Funk will use cutting-edge techniques to compare the genetics of various puma populations so that scientists may assess the degree to which they have interbred - providing evidence about their travel patterns.
"It's hard to track how they move, so we use genetics to infer where they've gone," Funk said. "If you have two groups with similar genes, you can infer that they have interacted."
Two faculty members from other institutions, Meggan Craft of the University of Minnesota and Scott Carver of the University of Tasmania, will perform the mathematical and statistical analyses needed to create models of how disease is expected to spread geographically through puma populations.
Other collaborators include Dr. Holly Ernest and colleagues from the University of California Davis and a large number of wildlife managers, field biologists, and veterinarians working for state and federal agencies.
The team will examine how wildlife management approaches influence disease transmission. In the case of the Florida panther, for instance, did the imported Texas cougars bring pathogens with them that affected the panthers?
"We're studying the effects of that intervention, and the intersection of that with landscape dynamics," VandeWoude said, citing rivers, highways and cities as possible barriers to puma movement and factors in disease transmission.
She explained that researchers can track the speed and direction of virus movement by testing various puma populations and comparing results. For example, the team will try to predict what pathways diseases like the feline leukemia virus will take when spreading through a population, and which groups of pumas are particularly susceptible to outbreaks. The models the team generates will also inform predictions about how disease could spread to pets and humans.
As an outreach project, one of Crooks' former postdoctoral students will create a video game that simulates disease movements and lets players manipulate puma populations to help them avoid infection.
The new study is a continuation of a project that VandeWoude and Crooks recently completed on disease transfer within three cat species, in which they compiled a database of puma blood samples and pathogens.
"We now have data on a high percentage of the puma population in our study areas, partly because they are so limited in number," VandeWoude said.
(Article #1542) To read the actual news story click here...
Caltrans to Build $2 Million Bridge to help lions Cross the Road (7/28/2014)
Biologists have long viewed Southern California's crisscrossing system of highways as insurmountable barriers that hinder the natural movement of mountain lions and other wildlife. These unintentional barriers are one of the leading causes of mountain lion deaths in that region of the state due to automobile accidents as well as intraspecies fights over territory within these man-made islands of habitat.
To help rectify the problem, and to reduce wildlife-related automobile accidents, Caltrans announced Saturday their plan to build either a $2 million bridge, or an underpass, at a key section of the 101 Freeway to link two fingers of state parkland just west of Liberty Canyon Road in Agoura Hills.
"The new crossing will better integrate the environment and transportation systems, fostering better wildlife connectivity on either side of the 101 and increasing public safety by reducing the risk for collisions between vehicles and wildlife," said Carrie Bowen, the Caltrans director for Los Angeles and Ventura counties.
Caltrans officials believe that a "wildlife corridor" bridge would be used by mountain lions and other wildlife because tracking devices have detected lions crossing back and forth in a similar situation over the Reagan (118) Freeway on a little-used road overpass at Rocky Peak.
The construction project which was originally priced at $10 million will be paid for by a design grant from the federal government's infrastructure funding program.
For more on this topic, check out our Guest Feature The Cougar Connection: Mountain Lions Lead the Way to Conservation Solutions by Nina Kidd, and Mountain Lion Research Helps Mountain Lions Cross Southern California Freeways by MLF's Biologist Amy Rodrigues.
(Article #1540) To read the actual news story click here...
A Mountain Lion Kitten is Killed in Nebraska (7/24/2014)
Fearing for the safety of his two children, a Father shot and killed a 5-month old, 30 pound, female mountain lion kitten last Saturday, in a rural area just south of Chadron, Nebraska.
According to his statement, the man spotted the young lion crouching in the grass 20-yards from his home while his two young children were playing outside on the patio.
He retrieved his rifle and approached the lion. He then shot the young lion when it stood but did not flee.
After notifying the authorities, the Dawes County Sheriff's Department investigated the incident and took possession of the animal's carcass, which was then transferred to Nebraska Game and Parks officials.
Authorities determined the man acted within the law.
It's still a mystery as to why the mountain lion kitten was found near the Chadron home alone. Young mountain lions do not commonly leave their mothers until they are closer to 24-months of age. Many biologists will agree that the chances of a 5-month old kitten surviving on its own are fairly slim. Currently, there has been no sign of the lion's mother or possible siblings in the area.
(Article #1539) To read the actual news story click here...
Another Protected Florida Panther Dies (7/21/2014)
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC), the remains of a 7-year-old radio-collared male panther were found recently in Collier County.
The panther's carcass was found in a serious state of decomposition, however FWCC officials believe the animal was killed by another panther.
This is the 18th recorded Florida panther death in 2014. Twelve of those deaths are attributed to automobile accidents.
Since the late 1970s, Florida's panther population has grown under Federal protection from a small handful to possibly as many as 160 animals. For many years now that total population number has hovered at that level due to lack of suitable habitat and dangerous, almost uncrossable roadways that surround the refuge.
(Article #1538) To read the actual news story click here...
Camper Reports Seeing Mountain Lion, But 'It Was Just A Raccoon' (7/17/2014)
This story by Daymond Steer was reposted from The Conway Daily Sun
TAMWORTH, NH — A camper's 9-1-1 call about a wild critter outside his tent was apparently greatly exaggerated.
On Tuesday, June 24th, the Carroll County sheriff's office sent out an update on its Facebook page saying that Tamworth police were responding to a White Lake State Park camper who reported seeing a mountain lion. Underneath, in the comments, the sheriff's office explained what happened once the officer arrived.
"PD reports the mountain lion/'raccoon' has been chased off," wrote the sheriff's dispatcher.
"Proper food storage for camping has been explained and a warning for a firearm in a state park was issued."
The update caused one reader to question what mountain lion/raccoon meant.
"I'm guessing that was the officer's way of saying there was no mountain lion, it was just a raccoon," the sheriff's office replied.
Another commenter said the witness should be given pictures of both animals for identification.
Tamworth Police Sgt. Penny Colby said officer Dana Littlefield responded to the call and determined that in fact the creature in question was a raccoon.
"Honestly, I don't know how he mistook it," said Colby about the camper.
(Article #1537) To read the actual news story click here...