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Mountain lion kills cause consternation

 
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 31, 2008 11:13 pm    Post subject: Mountain lion kills cause consternation Reply with quote

Mountain lion kills cause consternation

Published: October 30, 2008



By JAMES DAMSCHRODER

The Union Democrat


Mountain lion attacks on livestock have spiked in recent days in Tuolumne County.

"There's been a report everyday for the past week," said Nathan Graveline, California Department of Fish and Game biologist for Tuolumne and Mariposa counties.

Over the weekend, two sheep were mauled by a mountain lion in the Sonora area.

When a mountain lion attacks livestock, property owners have to obtain permits to kill the lion, after a 1990 proposition outlawed hunting them. Lions can also be killed if they are posing a threat to public safety or Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep populations.

Stan Kellogg, Tuolumne County Farm Bureau board member, said that two weeks ago, a mountain lion killed a goat on his son's property.

"It ate about half of it then got scared away," Kellogg said.

Kellogg owns a ranch in the area and says that mountain lions have been causing more damage since the 1990 proposition.

A lion was recently killed in the Tuolumne area after attacking livestock. Its carcass now rests in a Moccasin Fish Hatchery freezer. Studies will be done. Its age will be estimated. Its health will be examined. And its dietary habits will be documented.

"In most cases, they are perfectly healthy, normal lions," said Doug Updike, the statewide mountain lion coordinator with California Fish and Game. "The fact that they may have traded deer for livestock was their fatal mistake."

Though healthy populations of lions span across California, they remain mysterious animals.

What is known is that lions follow deer populations, Updike said. That's why a majority of sightings at lower elevations are in the winter, when deer are migrating from the Sierra Nevada snow.

A majority of lions preying on livestock in the warmer seasons are young male lions, Updike said. Young female lions are tolerated by older, stronger males, but young males are driven from prime feeding grounds by larger males.

"They're pushed to the periphery, into not-so-good deer habitat," Updike said.

"They love goats," he added.

Graveline said that a grant is being pursued to more closely study the migratory habits of lions in the area.

Trackers attached to lions have shown that for every lion that hunts livestock, there are many living among populated areas that are never seen.

For example, a large male lion that was tagged and tracked made his home, in and around, subdivisions in the densely-populated Thousand Oaks area and was never reported.

"No one ever saw it and it was a 160-pound male," Updike said. "They're cryptically colored, quiet, quick, and they're really good at hiding."

Updike and Graveline stressed that just because someone sees a lion doesn't mean it poses a public threat. The DFG receives hundreds of reported mountain lion sightings annually, but only 14 lions were killed because of public safety threats last year.

"People just have an innate fear of lions," Graveline said.


Contact James Damschroder at jdamschroder@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4531.
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