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Avoiding Wildlife Problems
Managing Mountain Lion Problems
Mountain lions (Felis concolor) are the largest native North American cat except for the slightly larger jaguar. Mountain lions are known by a number of different names - cougar, panther, painter, catamount, and puma. They are primarily nocturnal, shy, elusive, and solitary (except during the breeding season and when young are traveling with the female). They are very fast animals over a short distance, but because of relatively small lung capacity, cannot run great distances. They are agile tree climbers. Males are generally larger tan females averaging 130 to 150 pounds in weight and ranging in length from 72 to 90 inches. Females average 65 to 90 pounds. Pads on the forefeet are larger than those on the hind feet. Heel pads on both the fore and hind feet have a distinctive three-lobe appearance. Claw marks seldom show in the tracks of this species.
Mountain lions are mainly nocturnal, preferring to hunt at night. Deer are their favorite prey. They have also been known to prey on beaver, porcupines, rabbits, skunks, domestic livestock, pets, and other small mammals, birds, and even fish. Larger animals are usually killed by a bite to the back of the neck. Lions usually remove the viscera and eat the heart, liver, and lungs first. Uneaten portions of prey items are often cached (covered with vegetation, dirt, snow, or other debris). These food sources are generally fed upon until consumed or they spoil. Lions generally move the carcass and re-cover it after each feeding. Dens can be found in any concealed, sheltered spot. Male lions roam widely, females less widely, especially when the cubs are small.
Adult male home ranges often encompass more than 100 square miles. Adult males use their hind feet to scrape duff into a small pile to declare their territory. These "scrapes" or "scratches" are often 6 to 18 inches long and 6 to 12 inches wide. Females generally occupy ranges from 20 to 60 square miles. Females breed first at two or three of age, then every 18 to 20 months thereafter. Young may be born at any time of the year. Gestation period is 88 to 97 days. Litters range from one to six, generally two or three. Juvenile markings (spots) disappear by fifteen months.
Mountain lions are significant predators of sheep, goats, cattle, horses, house cats, dogs, and poultry in some areas of California. Damage is often random and unpredictable, but when it occurs, large numbers of livestock can be killed in short periods of time, a behavior known as surplus killing. The number of depredation permits issued by the Department of Fish and Wildlife has increased substantially in recent years.
Several attacks on humans have been documented in California, with two (1994) fatal attacks.
WHAT IF YOU LIVE IN LION COUNTRY?
Now that people and mountain lions occupy so much of the same geographical areas in California, encounters are expected to increase. If you live in mountain lion habitat, here's what you can do to reduce your chances of encountering a mountain lion near your home:
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU ENCOUNTER A MOUNTAIN LION?
There's been very little research on how to avoid mountain lion attacks. But mountain lion attacks that have occurred are being analyzed in the hope that some crucial questions can be answered: Did the victim do something to inadvertently provoke an attack? What should a person who is approached by a mountain lion do - or not do? The following suggestions are based on studies and analysis of attacks by mountain lions, tigers and leopards:
Shooting or capture with trailing dogs or live traps are effective, and the only legal ways, to take depredating mountain lions under a permit issued by the Department of Fish and Wildlife. There are no federally listed chemical repellents or toxicants registered for mountain lion control.
LAWS AND REGULATIONS
The mountain lion is classified as a specially protected mammal in California. Only individual animals causing damage to property, livestock or human health and safety can be taken. Any mountain lion that is encountered in the act of inflicting injury to, molesting or killing livestock or domestic animals can be taken immediately providing the taking is reported to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife within 72 hours. The Department of Fish and Wildlife may remove or take any mountain lion or authorize an appropriate local agency with public safety responsibility to remove or take any mountain lion that is perceived to be an imminent threat to public health or safety.
An individual is not guilty of a violation if it is demonstrated that, in taking or injuring a mountain lion, the individual was acting in self-defense or in defense of others.
Any owner or tenant or agent suffering from damage/destruction to property by mountain lions can apply to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife for a revocable permit to take the offending mountain/lions.
For further information on the legal status of mountain lions or assistance with a mountain lion depredation problem, contact your local California Department of Fish and Wildlife office.
For additional information or assistance with the capture of a depredating mountain lion, contact the USDA-APHIS-ADC State Office (916) 979-2675, or California Department of Fish and Wildlife (916) 358-2900.
MOUNTAIN LION INFORMATION LINKS
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*All information found on this page was resourced from the United States Department of Agriculture*