Tag Archive for: California

Where will they go?


In California, even in heavily populated urban areas, seeing bears and cougars is not completely unheard of, though still relatively uncommon. However, in recent years, it seems like these sightings and even incidents, are on the rise. Biologists think that some of this increase may be due to climate change. 2021 was the driest since 1924 and had the hottest ever summer in California, with nearly 9000 wildfires destroying 2.5 million acres of land where bears and mountain lions lived. 2021 was also the deadliest for bears on roads. It’s no wonder that some of these animals, fleeing for their lives, might cross highways and roads and wander into towns and cities seeking food.

It’s only a matter of time until less densely populated states in the Rocky Mountain west start to see the same thing happening. More and more people are moving into rural mountain towns, while at the same time, more and more wildfires are igniting due in part to climate change. Where will all the wildlife go when their homes and habitat are destroyed either directly by human development or indirectly by climate change induced habitat loss?

Just in Time for Valentine’s Day


His presence has provided an open air classroom for anyone who wants to learn about mountain lions, through media posts, research, and even in-person sightings as he has become conditioned to his ‘island’ of habitat in one of the densest human developments in the country.

He is known as P22 and his victory in surviving without conflict so close to humans is juxtaposed by the detriments we have inflicted upon him and others of his species.

He has gone through a lot in his life in the public eye in Griffith Park, including debilitating rodenticide poisoning, unnecessary and frightening hazing with a tennis ball server in a confined crawl space, and the inability to connect with a mate because of encroachment and lack of connectivity

The chances are that he will not pass on his genes-the function of survival in all living things. The chances are that he will not be alive when the magnificent overpass that will allow for greater connectivity and genetic diversity in mountain lions is built across the mighty and mightily devastating barrier of southern California highways.

P22 has been a teacher, even if his life has been lonely. Thank goodness he has brought awareness of the horrible dangers of poisons and infrastructure and their negative effects on wildlife. Let’s honor him by remembering these lessons going forward.


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Sonoma Valley Lions


Sonoma Valley in Northern California is looking to its neighbors in Southern California for inspiration on how to keep their mountain lion population from becoming fragmented and inbred. Fragmentation and isolation occurs when populations of mountain lions are kept apart from each other and can not physically meet up and breed. In Southern California, this has led to some birth defects and reduced fertility. Sonoma County is hoping to get ahead of this problem by building wildlife crossings before it happens. 

Wildlife crossings are essential for species diversity in California and throughout the world, anywhere where roads keep wildlife from moving to where they need to be, whether for breeding, migrating between summer and winter ranges, or just to get to more food. Humans are also protected by keeping wildlife off roads and preventing vehicle collisions. 

Cougars Crossing


Although wildlife crossings have been a priority in some states for a while, for the first time, the federal government is including considerable funding for wildlife crossings in the new infrastructure bill. The first major project planned for spending this money will be in one of the largest and busiest cities in the country. A wildlife crossing bridge over Hwy 101 near Los Angeles, California, will be 200-feet long complete with sound barriers and vegetation, and it will not only make it safer for humans and wildlife on the road, but it will also help the health of the lions. 

Studies have found genetic abnormalities in the populations of mountain lions near LA, which have contributed to reduced fertility. These abnormalities stem from inbreeding because the animals can not roam away from the Santa Monica Mountains to find genetically different cougars. They are barred by the freeway. Most who attempt to cross the barrier are hit and killed by cars. This crossing will connect different populations and allow them to mate, creating healthier genetically diverse populations of mountain lions. Wildlife crossings are so important to the health of cougars and other wildlife, not only to connect isolated populations, but also to allow animals to move freely without the threat of vehicles, and to protect people from injury in collisions.

Research Finds Cougars Avoid Humans even in Urban Settings


A recent mountain lion study in California highlights the big cats’ avoidance of urban and residential areas. Even though the Santa Monica Mountains cougars in the study lived in close proximity to Los Angeles, they only ventured into urban areas about 1% of the time. The study also found that they stayed much closer to developed areas, in the chaparral shrublands, than previously thought, perhaps because deer, their main source of food, also stayed close to developed areas. 

Although it seems like we are constantly hearing about mountain lions in backyards and close to human development, this study shows us how truly rare it is for them to venture into residential areas. Even in a population right on the edge of a huge city, it is exceedingly uncommon for cougars to seek out areas near humans. Avoidance is practiced almost 99% of the time. Even urban cougars are wild animals that want to stay wild and away from people when possible.  

From Wyoming to California

Photo from Wildlife Health Center UC Davis.

Scientists and collaborative effort often bring together the most unexpected partners. From the wide open spaces of Wyoming, where the largest urban area is less than 100,000 people, the wildlife biologists of the University of Wyoming, led by Holly Ernest found that extensive fragmentation and encroachment of massive development and sprawl are having a critical impact on Southern California urban and coastal mountain lions. Like the canary in the mine, this is a wake up call for how we, as humans, plan our development and impact fragile and declining habitat for species across the planet.

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