WildFutures' Wildlife Webinar Series - Most Recent
Living with Mountain Lions in the Bay Area & Greater California September 2018
Mountain lion researchers Dr. Quinton Martins and Dr. Winston Vickers examine the future of mountain lions in the Bay Area and greater California. They discuss the threats these animals face as a result of human population growth, habitat loss and fragmentation, effects of fire, and conflicts with livestock and pets.
They introduce you to their cats and share how their research is leading to a better understanding of mountain lion ecology, improving domestic animal protection measures, and targeted education programs that are helping people coexist with these iconic, elusive and charismatic cats.
About the Presenters:Read our interviews to learn more about Dr. Quinton Martins, Wildlife Ecologist, ACR Mountain Lion Project, & Dr. T. Winston Vickers, Principal Investigator, U.C. Davis Mountain Lion Project.
Q&A with Dr. Vickers & Dr. Martins
What data tracking collar provides what types of data?
Winston: GPS data points taken at intervals that are determined by the researcher - frequency of GPS location data acquisition is dependent on the scale of movement detection that is needed. Points can be taken as often as every few minutes up to hours apart.
What are the effects of the recent Sonoma fires on the collared cats that you've seen thus far? Are they dispersing into new locations now that some or much of their habitat has been burned?
Quinton: Our preliminary scrutiny of our GPS location data suggest that the relatively patch nature of the fires in the Sonoma area did not significantly impact on the movement of lions we were monitoring. Range shifts were not apparent and no physical harm came to any of the collared cats as far as we could tell from movement, trail camera photographs and from handling the cats during captures or recaptures. Long-term habitat use and diet related studies could show in more detail how these fires are likely to have affected these cats and their prey.
When is their prime hunting hours when in urban and rural settings, i.e., Portola Valley/Woodside Area? We have many domestic cats and dogs here, living outdoors and indoors year round. Winston: Mountain lions tend to become active late in the afternoon generally a bit before sundown and continue to be active until a bit after sunup – for the most part (but not always) they tend to bed down in a hidden spot during the day.
Do mountain lions tend to kill does, fawns, or bucks?
Quinton: Where we were able to find sufficient identifying material, yearling and adult deer have made up about 2/3 of the kills, and fawns made up about 1/3. More female adult deer than male adult deer killed. However, almost 1/3 of the adult deer were of unknown sex.
Dr. Vickers, do you think the home ranges are greater in Modock because there are less people , less fencing and less livestock to eat? Winston: It could be a function of prey density (having to travel further for a meal in some areas versus others). Other factors might also enter in. Given the low numbers of livestock taken in all the studies I know of relative to wild prey like deer, I don’t think livestock numbers enter into the hoe range equation. For Dr. Martins: can you talk about how the fires in Sonoma/Napa may have impacted the lions, and is there anything that can be extrapolated about this for other recent fires in California?
Quinton: Our preliminary scrutiny of our GPS location data suggest that the relatively patch nature of the fires in the Sonoma area did not significantly impact on the movement of lions we were monitoring. Range shifts were not apparent and no physical harm came to any of the collared cats as far as we could tell from movement, trail camera photographs and from handling the cats during captures or recaptures. Long-term habitat use and diet related studies could show in more detail how these fires are likely to have affected these cats and their prey. Fires are a natural part of the Sonoma ecosystem. As has been noted in prior publications, fires have affected lions and their prey in California.
In the chart that represents the lions' diet (at 28 minutes) what are the red numbers at the bottom? Winston: Total number of individual (per species) killed by 5 lions. Is there a monetary compensation program for depredations of farm animals (i.e., without also removing/killing the predators)?
Quinton: Not that I am aware of. Compensation is usually not a good option unless the person being compensated has made a concerted effort to avoid losses. If this pre-condition is not part of the compensation program, there is no incentive for the farmer to protect livestock, and the underlying issues remain unsolved. The monetary incentive should be to keep existing animals safe.
Many houses here are clustered together with some yards fenced in, others, not. Would a mountain lion jump over a fence once inside a fenced yard, and would it be harder for them to get away?
Winston: Because they can jump such high fences most yard fences are not a barrier either going in or out. (WildFutures’ note – it can vary depending on the cat, and mountain lions are know to leap 18 feet vertically and 20 horizontally). How many males, other than P6, live in the greater Sonoma area? Do they breed amongst siblings?
Quinton: For the first 2 years P5 was the only territorial male in this area - about 250 square miles. P5 is the father or is related to most of the lions here based on genetic analysis of P1 through P6. Lions would breed with siblings if the opportunity presented itself. Latest news is that P5 is being pushed out by a new male, and that male has just been mating with P10, a female previously mated with P5.
What kind of fencing do you use to deter mountain lions? Winston: On highway edges we are using chain link that is 10-12 feet high with 3 barbed wire strands on angled supports toward the wildlands and away from the highway. This seems to be enough to keep lions off the roads. However, even that tall a fence with the barbed wire won’t likely keep a lion out of an enclosure where there are domestic animals like goats. For full protection the prey animals need to be in fully enclosed, with wire or solid sided structures and a solid roof. If protection (no hunting) of mountain lions is a state law, why are you suggesting that the counties bear a certain responsibility for dealing with depredation losses/risks?
Quinton: It appears it is more onerous and takes a lot more time to change state law, where in our situation in Sonoma, changes in county policy could happen quicker and would solve most of the issues that lead to lions being killed. Ultimately, we would want to see state legislation support these initiatives to conserve lion populations.
Assume most deaths occur at night for wildlife. What are the chances for a movement to minimize or eliminate night driving? Winston: There are systems that detect wild animals approaching roads that set off warning lights to get drivers to slow down – words to some degree and can be deployed in certain areas but are somewhat expensive.
Why try to keep the lions off the land where there is people or animals, when we should keep people out of their land? Man gets mad that their livestock or pets get hurt or killed but we are the ones invading on them. They are doing what is natural to them.
Quinton: Mountain lions play an important part in the ecosystem so should not be excluded. We need to find ways of coexisting with them as well as other wildlife.
What can we do to help with your efforts to protect mountain lions? (Wildfutures' note - at the end of this page, there are options to donate to Winston and Quinton's research and conservation efforts.) Winston: Donate to mountain lion research if you can, be politically and personally active in efforts that are aimed at habitat and corridor conservation through conservation organizations, and commenting on development proposals that appear to be likely to significantly impact habitat conservation or corridors. How do you interpret the recent capture of a mountain lion in San Francisco - is that a good sign or a bad one? And do you know if it came from north of the City or from the south? I had assumed the south, but of course we know these cats can do amazing things!
Quinton: This is not that extraordinary considering a young dispersing male traveled from South Dakota all the way to Connecticut - about 2,000 miles. Young cats are doing their best to avoid adults as they find their way to eventually getting their own territory-- if they make it to that age. The cat in question likely came from the southern population.
Is there some way to have feeding post for these cats to keep them safe? Winston: Not realistically – they are too spread out to have a feeding location be effective, and generally speaking feeding stations for wildlife increase the risk of spread of disease between wild animals by abnormally concentrating them.
As we build more into wildland areas and as we improve the quality of natural habitats within developed areas, do you think there will be more direct human/lion negative interactions? Or do you think there are ways to coexist with urban lions based on better designed landscapes that accommodate each other within the same space?
Quinton:An increase in the human population is most likely to increase the likelihood of human-lion interactions. These interactions do not have to be negative though. People need to act responsibly and protect their pets and livestock so that conflict is less likely to occur. County and State policy/laws need to support people acting accordingly, ensuring lions are not removed indiscriminately. The possibility that aberrant lion behavior leads to human injury is always a possibility, and would statistically increase in relation to the number of interactions. However, considering the existing statistical data on lion threats to human safety in comparison to any other threats people face, it would likely remain minimal.
This year, WildFutures is helping support the vital work of our webinar presenters. Below are several ways you can contribute to Dr. Quinton Martins and Dr. Winston Vickers research and conservation work. Donations of any size are welcome and appreciated!
Dr. Winston Vickers (make checks payable to: UC Regents) Lavonne Hull Wildlife Health Center, University of CA Davis I Shields Ave, Davis CA 95616
Dr. Quinton Martins Donate through their online form at: www.egret.org/donation-form-give You can also send a check to: Audubon Canyon Ranch, Living with Lions POB 577, Stinson Beach, CA 94970
More webinars available to view
Ecology, Behavior, and Conservation of Mountain Lions around Los Angeles, Seth P.D. Riley, PhD
Agency Use of Karelian Bear Dogs for Carnivore Conservation and Management, Rich Beausoleil
Mountain Lion Kittens: Trials, Triumphs & Tragedies, Dr. Mark Elbroch
Heart of a Lion, William Stolzenburg
The Secret Life of Mountain Lions, Dr. Mark Elbroch