Neighborhood Critters – Mountain Lions

Did you know that we increasingly share the places we live and play with one of North America’s largest cats?  The mountain lion is an animal that is feared and was once hunted.  It is also an animal that has received attention lately due to an increase in mountain lion/human encounters.  Encounters are often due to more and more people living and recreating in mountain lions’ natural habitat. Incidents involving mountain lions suddenly increased from 419 in 2003 to 717 in 2005. The incidents that involved human safety also jumped significantly from 3 in 2003 to 13 in 2004. Because human incursion into the mountain lions habitat will continue to increase,  understand the mountain lion.

Mountain lions play an important role in the ecosystem and the larger biological community.  They are a top predator in a healthy ecosystem and help balance wildlife populations.  These magnificent creatures are often mysterious because of their secretive, solitary nature. Humans can live or spend time in mountain lion territory without ever seeing one.  Mountain lions can be dangerous, too. Knowing as much as possible about  these large, powerful predators is important for our safety and theirs.

Stature of Mountain Lions:  Adult males can be more than 8 feet long and weigh between 130-150 pounds. Adult females are smaller and are generally 7 feet long and weigh between 65-90 pounds.  Their most recognizable feature is their long and heavy tail, which measures almost two-thirds the length of the head and body.

Personality: Mountain lions are shy, quiet and keep to themselves.  They avoid each other, except for when males and females interact to breed.  Females can have litters of up to four kittens. The kittens are born spotted and stay with their mothers for about 18 months.

Habitat:  Mountain lions live in many different types of habitat. About half of California is prime mountain lion territory.

Diet: Mountain lions usually prey on large animals such as deer, bighorn sheep and elk in the wild and livestock in rural areas. However, as opportunistic feeders, they can also survive on small animals.  Mountain lions usually hunt alone and at night.

How to Get Along with a Mountain Lion: Mountain lions generally avoid people. There are some basic rules to follow to avert a mountain lion attack:

Do not hike alone.

Stay within sight of an adult human.

Do not approach a mountain lion.

Do not run from a mountain lion. (It may stimulate a lion’s instinct to chase.)

Do not crouch down or bend over. (You do not want to resemble four-legged prey.)

Do all you can to appear larger. (Raise your arms, hold your jacket open, wave your arms slowly and speak firmly in a loud voice.)

Fight back if attacked. (Throw stones, branches or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back.  Try to face the attacking animal and fend it off with whatever you can.)

Whenever we venture into the wilderness, we must be respectful of the fact that we are entering the domain of wildlife. Mountain lions, like all of wild life, have memories of where their domain used to be and quite naturally feel they, not we, belong there.

Sources:

CA Dept. of Fish and Game (www.dfg.ca.gov)

Mt. Lion Foundation (www.mountainlion.org)

Did You Know?

  •  Scientists are predicting that the average sea level will rise 1 to 3 feet over the next 100 years.
  • The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased by about 31% since 1750; atmospheric methane has increased by 151% over the same period of time. The resultant heat trapping effect has increased the earth’s average temperature by 1oF over the past century.

2005 Atlantic Storm Season

There were so many storms in 2005 that the list of names used by the Weather Bureau was exhausted and alpha-numeric nomenclature had to be used. The same storm season was responsible for more deaths and destruction than the previous 10 years combined.

Increase in Strength of Hurricanes

A study of storm data collected over the past 50 years leads to the conclusion that hurricanes in the Atlantic and North Pacific have roughly doubled in power over that time and concluded that the rise in sea surface temperatures was largely responsible.

NON-TOXIC HOUSEHOLD TIP

Household vinegar can be substituted for many toxic cleaners in your home. See http://deq.mt.gov/Recycle/SafeCleanser.asp

 

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