Mountain lion kills are a reminder to protect livestock
The recent predation of a Glen Ellen landowner’s six sheep by two mountain lions earlier this year is reminder for people to shelter their hobby animals and pets.
“All mountain lions are likely to kill unprotected livestock and pets,” said Dr. Quinton Martins, the wildlife ecologist heading up Audubon Canyon Ranch’s Living with Lions Project. “They’re doing what comes naturally.”
Living with Lions humanely captures mountain lions and equips them with GPS collars, enabling Martins to track the cats and study their use of habitat, wildlife corridors, behavior, territory and more.
In this recent case, a mother lion (known as P1) and her 1 year old male offspring (P19), climbed into an open enclosure off of Warm Springs Road and killed one sheep on Dec. 30.
Martins, who checks the whereabouts of all the collared cats every morning, saw that P19 had gone onto the property, and suspected something had happened. When he drove out there, he saw the dead sheep, and was able to make contact with the landowner.
The two lions then traveled a 50-square-mile range the next two weeks, killing at least two deer, and eventually returning to the Glen Ellen property the evening of Jan. 14 where they killed four more sheep. Martens and the landowner set up a trap to try and capture P1 and P19, but instead P19 killed the one remaining unprotected sheep later that night.
All this happened even with two llamas on the property, ostensibly there to help protect the unsheltered sheep.
A goal of Living With Lions is to educate property owners on how to protect their hobby livestock and pets so as to minimize the chance of losing the animals to mountain lions. About 75 percent of a mountain lion’s diet is deer, said Martins, with the balance being domestic pets, livestock, and smaller wild prey.
Martins wants people to contact his organization first before considering obtaining a depredation permit from California Department of Fish & Game (CDFG) to kill a lion, permits which are not difficult to obtain.
The educational efforts seem to be paying off.
There have been 50 different instances where collared lions have killed livestock in the Living with Lions’ research area. On each occasion, except for one, Martins has been able to contact the owner and convince them not to get a CDFW depredation permit.
“We’re making a difference,” said Martins.
As of now, 15 mountain lions have been collared by the Living with Lions Project. Over the last few years, four of the collared cats have been killed by landowners, one in Napa, one in Kenwood, one in Pt. Arena, and one in Glen Ellen.
As for the Warm Springs Road landowner, he said he was ready to be proactive in protecting future livestock.
“For me the sheep are pets and useful for keeping vegetation under control on my property,” he said. “I will get more sheep, but before doing so I need to build an enclosure with sides to provide a sight barrier to protect them at night. Though losing animals is traumatic, maintaining a balance in nature is also important. We live in the country and need to bear that in mind.”
To find out more about the Living With Lions project, go to egret.org/living-with-lions.
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