Residents of Los Angeles and its environs treasure their mountain lions

NEWS AND COMMENT: There is a nice relationship between the citizens of Los Angeles and its environs and the mountain lion a.k.a. the puma which is good to see. They’ve clubbed together to build the world’s largest wildlife bridge to expand the habitat of the mountain lion in the Santa Ana Mountains just north of Los Angeles. That’s one example of how they want to conserve this iconic wild cat of the Americas. Of course, they are being squeezed out by an increased human population which probably makes people who are sensitive to their conservation more aware of their vulnerability and possible extinction in the long term in North America.

Scar the 5-year-old puma mysteriously shot in Santa Ana Mountains
Scar the 5-year-old puma mysteriously shot in Santa Ana Mountains. Photo by Jason Andes
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

An informal survey carried out by Robert Detrano, a resident of the Santa Ana Mountains Foothills, using a local neighbourhood smart phone app. discovered that only 8% of the 324 respondents would want a mountain lion killed if it had killed their pet. That’s less than one in 10 people. The survey also found that two thirds would be more careful with their pet in the future and 23% would ask for the lion to be relocated while 3% would do nothing about it. There’s clearly a very sympathetic attitude towards mountain lions in this part of the world. And rightly so.

In the Santa Ana Mountains, there are an estimated 16-20 adult mountain lions. There is a fear of inbreeding causing sterility in the males and a further decline in population numbers which is why they are building that very impressive, privately funded bridge.

But the survey that I mention is particularly relevant today because a five-year-old mountain lion called Scar has been mysteriously shot (he has a scar on his left hind-leg). They are trying to find out who did it. Citizens can shoot a mountain lion under certain strict conditions e.g., if they have to defend themselves from an attack which, by the way, are incredibly rare. And farmers can shoot a mountain lion which is preying on their livestock but only under a permit issued by the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife.

However, there is no record of any permit being requested. Scar had attacked livestock and the authorities have spoken to the farmer concerned who has refused help to make his enclosures more secure against mountain lion attacks. This help would have been free of charge. They say that the person is unlikely to be the culprit because of his attitude. I wonder if that is a correct assessment?

In the past, Scar has attacked livestock. On May 4 and on May 20 he entered a livestock enclosure and killed goats and sheep. He was unable to escape the enclosure and was tranquilized and relocated on both occasions by wildlife officers. A tracking collar was attached by researchers. This is how they discovered he had been killed because the collar sends a signal if the mountain lion has been inactive for a set time.

Officials are still investigating the killing. When the population size is so low, the illegal shooting of one five-year-old cougar has a notable, detrimental impact therefore it is important that they find the person responsible. But, as mentioned, the nice spin-off from the story is a very positive and protective attitude of the area’s residents.

Puma and collie size comparison
Puma and collie size comparison. Illustration: PoC.

It demonstrates to me that there is a greater sensitivity to conservation of wild cat species in parts of America. They are protected in California as they should be. Things have moved on from the past when there were considered pests in North America and shot in vast numbers. And my book on the wild cat species tells me that puma hunting was big business, and in 1990 the sporting kill in 11 Western states was 1,875 cats. They hunt them with dogs which seems to me to be particularly unpleasant. There’s a hard core of sport hunters who just don’t see the importance of conservation and the pain that they inflict on sentient creatures.

Pumas will instinctively kill all types of domestic livestock but they prey mainly on sheep and calves. They sometimes kill and injure many more animals than they can possibly eat. It is up to livestock farmers to protect their animals and to minimise retaliatory killings.

If you’re interested in how many people are attacked by pumas over the last hundred years, you can click on this link if you wish.


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