SAVING THE CALIFORNIA MOUNTAIN LION
The resilient mountain lion goes by many other names: puma, cougar, panther, catamount — even “ghost cat.” Over the past century in California, it has survived habitat loss and government-sponsored extermination campaigns that wiped out the state’s grizzly bears and gray wolves.
But today mountain lions in Southern California and along the Central Coast are gravely threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation from freeways and rampant sprawl development.
We’re working to save these iconic cats.
Hemmed in by highways and killed by cars, California’s cougars are isolated in small, unsustainable populations. Barriers prevent young mountain lions from migrating in or out to establish their own home ranges and find mates.
That’s causing dangerous inbreeding and genetic-diversity declines, leaving some mountain lion populations vulnerable to extinction — in fact some could disappear in just 15 years if inbreeding gets worse.
To protect these cats, California needs clear state mandates to improve wildlife connectivity. The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), state lawmakers and local officials need to build wildlife crossings and protect large areas of intact habitat so mountain lions have room to thrive.
The Center is working to secure state-level protection for California mountain lions. We petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to list the Southern California and Central Coast mountain lion populations as “threatened” under the California Endangered Species Act. State and local authorities would be required to take measures that minimize impacts to these populations when building new highway or development projects.
Listing would also constrain the issuance of permits to kill cougars suspected of preying on livestock, grant state wildlife officials greater authority over projects that might harm mountain lions, and allow for the development and implementation of a recovery plan.
In response to the Center’s June 2019 petition to list Southern California and Central Coast mountain lions under the California Endangered Species Act, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife recommended in February 2020 that listing may be warranted. The Fish and Game Commission voted in April to accept the Department’s recommendation and advance these populations to candidacy.
At the local level, with the Center’s support, Ventura County has adopted a first-of-its-kind ordinance to protect habitat connectivity and wildlife movement corridors for mountain lions and other species.
After two young puma brothers left their mom, they were boxed in and killed because of roads and development fragmenting their California habitat. To save these iconic big cats, state and local agencies need to improve habitat connectivity.