Mountain lions are iconic apex predators in California. They are good at living close to humans and because they are so adept they are frequently in the news.
Here are three recent stories showing the good and bad of mountain lion proximity.
World famous P-22 is believed to be the cat recently spotted in a residential neighborhood of Los Feliz. The cat was lolling in a couple’s driveway when they got back from the movies. After a brief eye-to-eye encounter, he strolled away. P-22 is part of the 20-year-old National Park Service (NPS) mountain lion study and currently roams the Griffith Park area. The big male is famous for posing near the Hollywood Sign, crossing two freeways successfully (a trick one hopes he won’t try again) and even showing up in local neighborhoods. P-22 appears to have moved into his region in 2012 and seems unlikely to budge. The cougar eats mule deer and smaller prey such as racoons. He is fitted with a radio collar which is changed every two years.
His last check up was in 2021 and he was healthy. Two years before he had mange, which he no longer has. He is about 11, old for a mountain lion, but his solitary status is a mixed blessing. It means he may live to see the opening of the Liberty Canyon wildlife overcrossing. But because local mountain lions live in a wilderness “island” the species as a whole faces local extinction. Normally a younger, fitter male would have displaced P-22. The cats in the region are at risk of inbreeding which the overcrossing might help to solve.
But cougar/human encounters often have a worse outcome. According to ABC News:
“A 7-year-old boy is recovering after being attacked from behind by an aggressive mountain lion while walking through a park, authorities say.
The incident took place at Pico Canyon Park, located near Santa Clarita, California, in Stevenson Ranch, when authorities from the Department of Parks and Recreation in Los Angeles County say the boy was suddenly attacked and bitten by a mountain lion as he made his way through the park.”
Authorities are trying to match DNA taken from the victim to known mountain lions They have also been luring the cat into a trap. If captured and positively identified, the cat will likely be euthanized.
Meanwhile, Cougars in Death Valley are now known to be eating feral donkeys, according to Newsweek. The discovery, caught on a camera trap watching donkeys, is an Aha! moment for researchers. Previously it was thought the donkey and other large animals had no predators. It was theorized that since the disappearance of saber tooth tigers (Smilodon fatalis) and Dire Wolves (Aenocyon dirus) 12.000 years ago wild donkeys had a pass.
But the video, and the discovery that donkeys are rarer in wetands frequented by cougars,have changed attitudes. Efforts to expand the wetlands can be undercut by donkey damage. Currently large amounts of money are spent to catch and hold nuisance donkeys. That money could be better spent encouraging cougars and wolves and protecting them, some experts are now saying.