Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mountain Lions in the Santa Ana Mountains

With all the news of the Mountain Lion Captured in Whiting Ranch Recently, here is a great update regarding the Mountain Lion Population in the Santa Ana Mountains and the surrounding area from the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center who has been doing research on the Mountain Lion Population in Southern California since 2001. The picture above is from the top of Saddleback Mountain overlooking the Santa Ana Mountains. Here is an update they provided on their UC Davis Website:

Update, July 2012
One of the mountain lions the WHC has been tracking hourly since February, M91, was killed on the 241 Toll Road near its junction with the 91 Freeway in Orange County early in the morning on July 7, 2012. M91 was a young male of dispersal age (between 1 ½ and 2 years old) that was captured originally with his mother (F89), brother (M93), and sister (F92) on lands that are part of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks lands near the Coal Canyon corridor to the Chino Hills State Park. M91’s brother, M93, was with M91 when he was struck by the vehicle, but so far there is no evidence that M93 was injured (his collar data shows that he is still moving across the landscape in a normal fashion).
The WHC study has been looking at the link between roads and mountain lion mortality in this area since 2006, and has documented over 75 crossings of the 241 Toll Road by GPS-collared mountain lions in that time, with 3 crossings that were unsuccessful (fatal to the lions). Numerous un-collared mountain lions have also been documented as being killed on the Toll Road during that time, along with several hundred (combined) deer, coyotes, and bobcats. In the Santa Ana mountain range as a whole (from Irvine south to Fallbrook), more than 20 mountain lions have been documented as having died on roads in the last 10 years, a concern in a population estimated to only number 20 to 30 adults at any given time.
Vehicle collisions have been the number one cause of death for GPS-collared mountain lions throughout our Southern California study area. Tragically, M91 was just over a kilometer away from a safe bridge crossing, and even closer to some suitable culverts that a mountain lion could use to cross safely. Our research as well as research in other areas suggests that proper fencing is the primary way to prevent wildlife collisions with vehicles and to funnel mountain lions, deer, and other wildlife to safe road crossings. The Orange County Transportation Corridor Agency, the Nature Reserve of Orange County, and others are supporting our research to help identify locations where fence improvements are most needed on this and other highways, and what those improvements should be, in order to reduce the impact of area roads on wildlife. We are hopeful that needless deaths like M91’s can be prevented in the future if recommended improvements occur.

Update, April 2012

Current totals this field season - 12 animals captured 15 times; 11 animals are new to the study.

Total number of cougars collared since study began = 64. Bobcats captured = 12. Additional animals have been captured that were not collared due to being too young at the time of capture. Over 120 total cougar captures during the entire study period and 15 bobcat captures.
Below: Footage of mountain lion F89 and her three nearly full-grown kittens checking out traps in early April 2012. All four lions were caught, examined, collared, and safely released.

1 comment:

Ashley and I encourage and welcome our readers to submit comments about their experiences on the trails we have posted on our blog or about their own hiking experiences in general.