A mountain lion. Photo courtesy California Department of Fish and Game
A mountain lion. Photo courtesy California Department of Fish and Game

The biggest threat to mountain lions in California is traffic, with 107 of the animals killed by automobiles this past year, according to state wildlife officials.

But while that number may seem high at a glance, it is pretty common and mountain lions are killed by moving cars “a couple times a week; they’re killed all the time across the state,” according to Andrew Hughan, a public information officer with the  California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Despite that high number of deaths, the mountain lion population remains stable at 4,000 to 6,000 because they do not have any natural predators and are protected from hunting by California law, Hughan explained.

“There are a few other states that outlaw it, just because they don’t want them hunted, but California’s the only one that’s protected. So, there’s no hunting, so the population’s allowed to thrive,” he said. “The only thing really that keeps the population in check is getting hit by cars.”

Hughan also said the Santa Monica Mountains north of Los Angeles are a major problem area. A mountain lion was struck and killed there as recently as Dec. 15.

That lion, a female known as P-39, was being tracked by National Park Service researchers and had three 6-month-old kittens. She was hit on the Ronald Reagan Freeway near the Los Angeles/Ventura county line.

Another mountain lion in the area, P-45, made headlines in November when it killed more than 50 farm animals over the year and a rancher obtained a permit to hunt it. The rancher, Victoria Vaughn-Perling, later said she would not hunt the animal and opted instead to build better fencing around her property.

— City News Service

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.