Tuolumne Lake, California. Mountain lake at sunrise.  Bright green grasses, rocky hills, reflection.
Photo Courtesy of Sathish Jothikumar
Text:  History.

History of the Mountain Lion Foundation

Since 1986, the Mountain Lion Foundation has inspired citizens across the nation to act on behalf of lions and their habitat by presenting practical solutions to complex problems, providing unbiased information to media, aiding local activists, promoting lion research, influencing regulation and changing laws.

  • Governor Ronald Reagan signs legislation outlawing the sport hunting of mountain lions for five years.


  • 15-year moratorium on sport hunting lions comes to an end. The Legislature extended the ban twice between 1972 and 1986.
  • Mountain Lion Coalition is formed to protect mountain lions in California.
  • Coalition defeats two bills in the State Legislature that would have allowed trophy hunting of mountain lions.
  • Coalition stops California Fish and Game Commission (CFGC) plan to allow mountain lion hunting.


  • Coalition files for non-profit status and the Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation is born.
  • CFGC approves trophy mountain lion hunting over the Foundation's opposition.
  • Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation files successful lawsuit challenging the lion hunting decision for the 1987 season.
  • Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation sponsors bill in the State Legislature to ban the use of dogs for mountain lion hunting (the bill was defeated after the National Rifleman's Association made the measure its highest priority).


  • Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation-produced study documents the decline in mountain lion habitat in the Sierra Nevada.
  • Defying a court order, the CFGC approves mountain lion trophy hunt for the 1988 season.
  • Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation files a second lawsuit challenging the mountain lion hunting regulations for the 1988 season.


  • Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation's 100% volunteer effort gathers 680,000 signatures to qualify an initiative (Proposition 117) to ban mountain lion trophy hunting for the 1990 California ballot.
  • Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation creates its Adopt-a-Lion program.


  • Voters approve Proposition 117 which bans mountain lion hunting and creates a $30 million-per-year Habitat Conservation Fund.
  • Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation-sponsored legal decision that invalidated the California Department of Fish and Game's 1988 mountain lion hunt is upheld by the California Appellate Court.
  • Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation produces two traveling mountain lion exhibits. One of the permanent mountain lion exhibits is created by MLPF for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy in Southern California.


  • Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation publishes Preserving Cougar Country.
  • Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation creates an anti-poaching campaign.
  • Three Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation-supported bills are approved in the California State Legislature to provide millions of "bucks for bucks."
  • Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation is officially re-named the Mountain Lion Foundation (MLF)


  • MLF publishes Cougar: The American Lion.
  • MLF files a "friends of the court" brief in a lawsuit that said the CFGC erred in protecting the California gnatcatcher as a candidate species under the state Endangered Species Act.
  • MLF files another "friends" brief in a lawsuit that protects endangered salmon from pumping in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.


  • MLF and other groups file a lawsuit to protect an important wildlife corridor in Coal Canyon, between the Santa Ana Mountains and Chino Hills State Park on the border of Orange County.
  • MLF helps build the evidence for the prosecution of a ranch in Monterey County that hosted illegal mountain lion hunting.
  • MLF loses a bid in the State Legislature to ban the use of dogs to hunt black bears in California.


  • MLF publishes the anti-poaching book Crimes Against the Wild.
  • MLF defeats legislation to eliminate the Habitat Conservation Fund, which was created in Proposition 117.
  • MLF helps kill three bills to repeal Proposition 117.
  • MLF helps kill legislative bill to eliminate the Endangered Species Ballot Check-off Program.
  • Successful lawsuit by MLF and others keep the Mojave ground squirrel on the state Endangered Species List, which preserves an important precedent for the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).


  • The California Legislature places Proposition 197, to rescind Proposition 117's ban on mountain lion hunting, on the November 1996 ballot.


  • MLF launches it's No on Prop 197 public education campaign.
  • California's voters defeat Proposition 197 by more than 16 percent.


  • MLF presents first annual anti-poaching award to a deserving public official
  • A MLF sponsored bill to ban the use of hounds for hunting bears and bobcats is placed in the California State Legislature (failed after opposition from houndsmen).
  • MLF produces award-winning anti-poaching public service announcements in five languages for distribution to the media.
  • MLF wins a legal decision overturning Gov. Pete Wilson's emergency order for a sweeping five-year waiver of the California Endangered Species Act.
  • MLF sponsors a successful measure in the State Legislature requiring the California Fish and Game Commission to post decision-making documents on the Internet.
  • MLF creates California Legal Advocates for Wildlife (CLAW), a new legal defense program.


  • MLF files its first lawsuit challenging the inadequacy of the Habitat Conservation Plan for the North Natomas development in Sacramento, California.


  • MLF successfully amends a bill that would have eliminated the mountain lion hunting ban that was established in Proposition 117.
  • MLF successfully petitions the CFGC to list the Sierra Nevada Bighorn sheep as "endangered" under the California Endangered Species Act.
  • MLF helps California Department of Fish and Game win a $3 million appropriation to write a recovery plan for Bighorn sheep.
  • MLF joins with the National Audubon Society to develop and implement the Adopt-A-Species program to teach California's middle school students about endangered species.


  • Coal Canyon is acquired by Californnia State Parks and protected for all time, providing a key link for the safe passage of mountain lions and other wildlife between Chino Hills State Park and the Santa Ana Mountains.
  • MLF launches Lions in the Park program to educate state park rangers and docents.
  • MLF and California State Parks work together to create a three-panel, color interpretive display.
  • Judge rules in favor of MLF's case which invalidated the City of Sacramento's authority to allow developers to kill endangered species and requiring the USFWS to complete an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that would analyze the effects of habitat destruction on giant garter snakes and Swainson hawks in the Natomas Basin.
  • MLF supports the USFWS proposal to designate over 5.4 million acres of public and private land in California as critical habitat for the red-legged frog.


  • MLF launches its Living with Lions program to educate Californians on how to coexist with mountain lions and to introduce ideas and practical assistance that will protect lions that come into contact with people, rather than punishing them for behaving naturally.


  • MLF organizes, chairs and presents at the first-ever sessions on the conservation of mountain lions at a major scientific conference, Carnivores 2002.
  • As part of the Living with Lions program, Wolf Creek and Indian Valley 4-H club members and MLF celebrate 4-H's 100th birthday by completing the construction of the first cougar-proof pen designed specifically to protect goats and other small domestic livestock from mountain lion depredation.
  • MLF's Living with Lions program worked with local 4-H and FFA groups to build the first cougar-proof pen in Calaveras County, California.
  • Working with the California Oak Foundation, MLF sues the Department of Forestry demanding they protect oak woodlands, which provide excellent mountain lion habitat.
  • MLF, with other conservation groups, files suit in federal court and successfully stops the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) from proceeding with an elk population study that involves killing at least half the mountain lions in two regions of Oregon.


  • MLF launches its new On-the-Edge program in Southern California's Santa Monica Mountains to teach communities responsible ways to coexist with wildlife on the suburban fringe.
  • MLF organizes, chairs and presents at the first-ever conservation session at a Mountain Lion Workshop, a scientific conference on mountain lions held by state wildlife agencies held approximately every four years.


  • MLF presents information on lion biology and behavior to residents in Palo Alto after a lion is killed by CDFG and receives national media coverage.
  • MLF educates over 200 Municipal Water District field employees in the Santa Monica Mountains on staying safe while working in lion country.
  • MLF testifies against the Arizona Game and Fish Department's plan to eradicate all mountain lions from the Sabino Canyon.
  • The last known male mountain lion (P1) in California's Santa Monica Mountains has a depredation permit issued on him after preying on domestic goats, but MLF fights to have P1 spared. Later that year, P2, his mate, gives birth to four cubs.
  • MLF works with the Felton 4-H to build a lion-proof small livestock enclosure, preventing any depredation of their livestock before an incident ever occurs.
  • MLF opens its first field office in southern California and offers presentations on wildlife corridors and living with mountain lions.
  • A large cougar display created by MLF in 1996 for the Effie Yeaw Nature Center begins a tour through Iowa to educate communities after a few lion sightings raise concern and curiosity among residents.


  • MLF begins a Living with Lions program in San Luis Obispo County, California, to help create support for local ordinances on land use and wildlife friendly neighborhoods while providing educational presentations in the community and training local law enforcement agencies.
  • MLF starts Project Newsworthy to help provide journalists with accurate information about mountain lions. The program created multiple public service announcements in both English and Spanish to be aired when a sighting has occurred.


  • MLF works with the Black Hills Mountain Lion Foundation to build a lion-proof small livestock enclosure in South Dakota to expand non-lethal husbandry techniques and help residents coexist with the recovering cougar population in the Black Hills region of that state.
  • MLF publishes Human Exploitation of Mountain Lions in the American West analyzing the exceedingly high rate at which mountain lions are killed and suggestions for ecosystem recovery.
  • MLF publishes Effects of Sport Hunting Mountain Lions on Safety and Livestock, putting to rest once and for all the myth that sport hunting lions will somehow increase the safety of people and domestic animals.


  • MLF expands upon its successful Living with Lions program with the launch of Rural Partners to help pet and livestock owners in the Central Sierra better protect their animals.
  • MLF takes part in Sierra Nevada AmeriCorps Partnership Program and hosts an AmeriCorps member full time to work on its Rural Partners program.
  • MLF partners with the US Fish & Wildlife Service and Defenders of Wildlife to build several lion-proof small livestock enclosures in Naples, Florida to protect livestock and ultimately keep endangered Florida panthers out of trouble in their shrinking habitat.
  • MLF begins its two year Safe Passages program, partnering with various agencies and the public, to institutionalize protection for wildlife corridors by beginning outreach in California neighborhoods around the Santa Monica, Santa Susana, San Gabriel and Santa Ana mountain ranges.


  • MLF's Rural Partners program provides a grant to the Placer Nature Center to create a permanent display and provide education at the Auburn County Fair.
  • MLF gives briefings on mountain lions to over one-hundred San Diego Sheriff Search and Rescue team members to increase the safety of officers, the public, and mountain lions.
  • MLF continues with the second year of the Safe Passages program, recruiting numerous partners and spreading education through presentations and a massive community-wide door-to-door distribution of informative fliers about local corridors.


  • An expansion of MLF's website takes advantage of more than 30 years of information, making information about mountain lions more easily accessible to the public with daily news article updates, opinion articles, and feature presentations in text, audio, and video.
  • MLF's Cougar Clippings service expands to provide weekly electronic news and keeps thousands of people informed on the media coverage of mountain lions.
  • MLF joins the popular networking site Facebook and gains over 300 fans in the first month.
  • MLF and a coalition of Oregon-based conservation groups continued an on-going lawsuit against the Oregon Wildlife Services, and the USDA over Oregon's plans to preemptively kill off mountain lions to help elk herds.
  • MLF joined with several other conservation groups to present written comments against new US Fish and Wildlife management plan which could eventually remove all mountain lions from Arizona's KofA wildlife refuge and its surrounding environs.
  • In an effort to fight off a citizens movement based out of San Benito County to repeal Proposition 117, MLF responded to inquiries into the merits of Proposition 117 from both state and county officials, and appeared before the San Benito County Fish and Game Commission to answer a public inquiry into the threat mountain lions pose to that county's citizens.
  • MLF provides an educational workshop for the Santa Paula Police Department after the "public safety" killing of a 15-pound lion kitten.
  • MLF worked with the Black Hills Mountain Lion Foundation to help stop Senate Bill 75 (to allow the use of hounds while hunting mountain lions), and House Bill 1004 (which would have allowed people to keep the pelts of mountain lions killed for depredation or public safety).


  • MLF and its co-plaintiffs lose its appeal against the Oregon Wildlife Services, and the USDA.
  • MLF rallies its California-based membership to object to a plan by the California Department of Fish and Game to close some of its wildlife refuges.
  • MLF launches On Air, a broadcast project that conducts audio interviews with mountain lion experts.
  • MLF participates in a community meeting after a lion is shot by police near the UC Berkeley campus and the public is outraged by the lack of non-lethal management techniques. MLF's outreach efforts encourage Californians to write letters to law enforcement agencies demanding a change from a "shoot first" attitude, and later that summer the Morgan Hill (California) Police Department uses pepper-balls to scare away a lion from town, and a game warden in San Bernardino county humanely tranquilizes and relocates a dispersing juvenile.
  • MLF is recognized by the California State Senate for its contribution in passing Proposition 117 twenty years earlier.
  • Thirty-four groups from 13 states joined MLF in an ad hoc coalition to celebrate and promote the American lion for a period of 117 days--June 7 through September 30, 2010. MLF's Celebrating the American Lion Campaign's goal was to raise the national awareness of the plight facing lions in America today and to showcase the advocacy and public education work of the coalition's partner organizations.
  • MLF starts its Lion Partners program where the Foundation provides advice and assistance to small volunteer mountain lion advocacy groups.
  • MLF joins the Twitter network as MtnLionFdn to update members instantly on the latest cougar news, events, and action alerts.


  • MLF started off the year by posting a special 8-minute video detailing the basic biology and behavior of mountain lions on YouTube with links from the MLF website. A DVD of the video was also produced for distribution to small local conservation groups and educational institutions for use in public presentations without the need of an actual MLF presenter.
  • In May, MLF tried something new by placing a "Stop the Killing. NOW!" on-line petition. In this petition we called for: Banning the recreational hunting of lions on all federally owned or controlled lands. Halting the use of federal funds or agencies to conduct lion eradication or removal programs. And, demanding that the Governors of states with existing lion hunting policies emplace a moratorium on all hunts until that state's lion population model and management plans have undergone a rigorous scientific peer-review process.
  • MLF's web-based activities centered on reinventing its website with a new, visually appealing, and user-friendly layout.
  • MLF premiers its new "Where do we go from here?" poster and "American Lion brochure at a special gala event at the San Francisco Academy of Sciences.
  • MLF partners with the St. Luis, Missouri Audubon Society to help inform that state's citizenry about their lions (or the official lack of them) by developing two special Missouri specific educational brochures.
  • MLF creates a special Washington state specific informational brochure.
  • MLF joins with the Washington chapter of HSUS, PAWs, and a small collection of unaffiliated cougar activists to try and stop WAC 232-12-243. This particular administrative rule change would (in direct violation of Initiative 655) allow hunters to use hounds to hunt cougars in Washington for recreational purposes.
  • MLF drafts and helps pass California Senate Bill 769. SB 769 is an amendment to Proposition 117 to allow the use of post-1990 lion carcasses and body parts for educational purposes.


  • MLF continues an effort started in April of 2011 to reauthorize mountain lion research in California. The final outcome of this effort is Assembly Bill 1784, an amendment to Proposition 117 written and promoted by MLF. AB 1784 is expected to pass the legislature and be signed by the Governor sometime this summer.
  • MLF helps raise the public's awareness to the actions of California Fish and Game Commission President Dan Richards after he kills a mountain lion on a legal hunt in Idaho and then brags about it by posting a photograph of him lifting his dead trophy. In the end we were unable to get Mr. Richards removed from the commission, but our actions, coupled with those of other conservation organizations, have resulted in the introduction of several legislative bills aimed at reforming the Commission.
  • MLF starts a campaign to change the way the California Department of Fish and Game handles mountain lions that are listed as an imminent threat to the public's safety, and investigates the killings of mountain lions in Sunland and Santa Monica California.

Lion walking in snow.



The Mountain Lion Foundation is a tax-deductible non-profit organization, tax exempt under
Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code (Federal I.D. # 94-3015360)

Copyright 1988-2020. Material produced by the Mountain Lion Foundation is protected under copyright laws. Permission to rebroadcast or duplicate is granted for non-commercial use when the Mountain Lion Foundation is credited.