Cougar! Puma! Ghost Cat! Magnificent Animal! Deadly Predator
The mountain lion has been called all of these, and more. No animal in California’s recent history has generated more controversy or been the subject of more conflicting stories than this majestic, secretive animal. The mountain lion, Felis Concolor, is the largest North American member of the cat family and is the largest pure carnivore in California. Adult males may grow to almost eight feet in length and can weigh as much as 200 pounds. Adult females are usually much smaller, and normally weigh between 75 and 100 pounds. These cats are distinguished by their tawny color and very long tails. Adults have no spots but usually have black-tipped ears and tail.
An adult male may have a home range spanning 100 square miles and an adult female 20-60 square miles with population densities averaging three lion per 100 square miles in desert areas to seven to ten lions per 100 square miles in the western Sierras and northwestern part of California.
Life in the wild is not easy for the mountain lion. From a typical litter of three kittens, two will survive the first year and one will survive to breeding age. Adults may live 12 years in the wild and up to 25 years in captivity. Deer provide the lion’s primary food source.
As with all California native wildlife, managing the mountain lion is the responsibility of the California Department of Fish and Game. Much of the present controversy surrounding the mountain lion involves the question of whether the mountain lion population in California is increasing and whether this is leading to increased contact with the human population in California. The Department has undertaken studies in recent years and produced statistics which indicate an increase in lion-human interaction but cannot state that the population is, in fact, increasing.
Part of the problem stems from the fact that the human population has grown significantly in recent years. Many of these people are settling in the outskirts of urbanized areas and are visiting undeveloped and wilderness areas in greater numbers than ever before. With such a significant human population growth it is hard to say if there are more lions for people to see or more people to see mountain lions.
The documented statistical data does show that there are more mountain lion sightings today than previously. Unfortunately, a few of these interactions have resulted in human injury or death.
The Department of Fish and Game also emphasizes public education as a means of improving safety and recommends the following:
The Wildlife Waystation believes it is very important for members of the public to educate themselves and their children regarding the outdoors and the animals which make their home there. We all have a right to be here and peaceful coexistence with wildlife is certainly achievable. The more knowledgeable you are the more you will enjoy the beauty of nature that surrounds you and the more you will be able to share that with your children