Mountain lions face greater risk of becoming roadkill in wildfire’s aftermath, study says
SAN DIEGO – A roadkill mountain lion discovered in downtown Las Vegas this week is making the trek from the southern border of the U.S., where mountain lions roamed through the 1980s, to the Northern Rockies, where most of the species have vanished since 1980.
Numerous other cats and cougars have died on their way to the mountains, but officials were unaware of them, according to the study.
While many mountain lions have vanished in the past 35 years, the study authors, including researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey, believe Mountain lions face greater risk of becoming roadkill in the wild after the recent fires ravaging their habitat.
“There’s certainly a lot of concern to understand what these mountain lions are doing in the wild and how they’re surviving in the wild. If these cats are already moving into these areas, it’s not a good sign of things to come,” said study author Andrew J. Wolfe, a research ecologist and wildlife biologist at Gila, Ariz.
In 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services listed 17 mountain lion subspecies, more than any other species. The new study, however, examined just one subspecies: the mountain lion in Arizona and New Mexico.
Most of Arizona’s mountain lion population disappeared during the 1980s, Wolfe said.
“We think the situation is worse now than in the past. We have a big, big problem, and so do they,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe and his co-authors combed through public and private animal kill data collected by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It revealed that the number of mountain lion and cougar roadkill is rising as the mountains burn.
The mountain lion data is “very, very significant,” Wolfe said.
“That’s a different scenario for a very important species,” he said.
But the new study didn’t find a direct correlation, suggesting the new fires “didn’t trigger this catastrophic event.”