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Register Article on the Rise in Mountain Lion Deaths in Orange County

The unfortunate recent encounter between a mountain lion and a family hiking in Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park has heightened concerns about the survival of these big cats and the tragic consequences of human encroachment.  The Register is reporting an alarming rise in the number of mountain lions who have died at human hands, including vehicle deaths, illegal hunting and at the hands of wildlife officials due to aggressive behavior.  While we are glad that no people were hurt during the most recent encounter at Whiting Ranch, it is nevertheless sad to watch Southern California’s apex predator grow more endangered by the year.  The OC Register article about mountain lions is currently available outside of their paywall.  That story is here, please read the whole thing.  Below are some highlights:

  • Experts believe that only 15 to 27 adult mountain lions remain in the Santa Ana Mountains.  One adult mountain lion will claim a territory of up to 300 square miles.
  • According to the Register, the “[n]o. 1 cause of death for mountain lions is being hit by motor vehicles, particularly on the 241 Toll Road, where 15 cougars have been killed.”
  • The primary source of food for a mountain lion is the local mule deer population, which is concentrated in the Santa Ana Mountains, Limestone Canyon, Santiago Canyon and in the Irvine and Santiago Oaks regional parks.  Locally, both Caspers and Whiting Ranch have mule deer populations and have had recent mountain lion spottings.
  • The last recorded fatal mountain lion attack in Orange County occurred in 2004, when a mountain lion attacked and killed a mountain biker, also in Whiting Ranch.
  • In addition to existing wildlife undercrossings, three million dollars has been allocated to build a 10 to 12 foot wildlife fence along the 241 toll road, where most of the mountain lion vehicle deaths have occurred.

The Register also created a graphic showing all of the mountain lion deaths that have occurred in Orange County in the last 15 years.

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