Southern California Cougar - Bobcat Study Wildlife Health Center UC Davis. Winston Vickers and Walter Boyce

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1 Southern California Cougar - Bobcat Study Wildlife Health Center UC Davis Winston Vickers and Walter Boyce The Nature Conservancy Scott Morrison, Carole Bell, Trish Smith, Brian Cohen Orange Co. Parks Donna Krucki

2 Short, squat musculature, long, lithe frame. Powerful posterior, heavy tail. Narrow shoulders for maneuverability. Average wts. Females pounds, Males pounds

3 The Frequency of Feeding Lifespan up to 12 years in the wild, and 25+ in captivity (oldest in our study is 8 10 years) Litter size 2 4 kittens Kittens surviving to adulthood 1 2 Kittens stay with mother to ~1 ½ years of age Energetic needs (source -Ackerman Utah State): Adult cougar - 1 deer every 16 days, a female and three 3-month olds, 1 deer every 9 days

4 Camouflaged

5

6 Southern California Project - Began in 2001 Research focus: Landscape connectivity Barriers to movement - Corridors Genetics, Health, and Disease / Toxin Exposure Minimizing conflicts between people, cougars, and domestic animals Bighorn Deer Cougar Bobcat interactions

7 Critical habitat linkages that we are studying

8 Studying pumas Cameras document collared and uncollared pumas Capture and check health Take blood, DNA, feces, GPS collar Track movements and behavior Drag Mark >

9 Relatively small cage traps are effective for cougar capture Traps are monitored by radio continuously once set

10

11 Traps checked within ½ - 1 hour of door closing Little apparent stress Lions often feed on deer in trap

12 Anesthetized cougar Monitoring vital signs under anesthesia Taking measurements Front paw of male cougar

13 Checking teeth Weighing sedated male cougar Applying GPS collar

14 Examining cougar kitten Tracking collar radio signals Recording data

15 90+ mountain lions sampled for DNA, disease, and toxins 65 mountain lions captured 57 radio-collared (56 GPS, 1 VHF) one or more times

16 Data points are clear evidence of habitat use and movement However, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

17 Life through the eyes of a lion Community Science

18 Most of mountain and foothill areas of southern California are cougar habitat, but much is fragmented and quality varies widely

19 Burdett et al, Ecosphere Aug 2010: -Approximately 10% of the study area will transform from exurban, rural, or undeveloped areas to suburban or urban by 2030, and 35% of suitable puma habitat on private land in 1970 will have been lost by Cougars in fragmented or exurban habitat are at significantly higher mortality risk than those in rural or wild lands

20 Risks to southern California cougars 30 of 56 (54%) collared cougars and 1 captured but uncollared cougar are confirmed to have died while circulating in the wild Over half of the mortalities of cougars while circulating in the wild were directly related to humans, suggesting similar impacts are likely in the rest of the cougar population: 1 lion (F20 above) was shot but survived Car strikes (20%) Depredation permits (20%) Disease confirmed or likely (17%) Unknown cause (13%) Illegal shootings (13%) Fire human set (6%) Shootings deemed legal (3%) Another cougar (3%) Unknown but trauma suspected (3%)

21 Freeways, development, and border defense are barriers to mt. lion movement

22 Cumulative mt. lion data points in the Santa Ana Mtns 5 years of data. Datapoints from each individual mountain lion are a different color Datapoints are cumulative for the entire time of the study and do not represent the numbers or locations of mountain lions present at any given point in time.

23 Genetics findings Ernest et al, Conservation Genetics, 2003 Used samples from multiple studies across the state, including ours and Paul Beiers Lions in the Santa Ana Mtn s showed the greatest genetic isolation among the 8 subpopulations studied in California at that time

24 Santiago Fire outline (red hatch) superimposed on F44 territory Fire Effects

25 F44 in these hills when fire began Scott Vickers

26 Outline of San Diego County s Cedar Fire superimposed on Santa Ana Mts. with lion territories plotted fire of this magnitude could have a significant impact on this lion population

27 Recent first documented dispersal out of Santa Anas to Palomars and beyond by a collared lion (M56) Recent first documented crossing of US-Mexico border by collared lion (M53)

28 Daytime appearance of Gopher Canyon undercrossing where M56 apparently crossed in the middle of the night, though may have crossed the freeway at grade Pavement is 4 lanes wide through the undercrossing Photo taken looking east his direction of travel

29 M56 dispersal path North and west San Diego Co. conserved lands that M56 and other cougars move through are highly fragmented M56 killed here on depredation permit related to inadequately protected sheep

30 Coal Canyon undercrossing into Chino Hills no confirmed use by radiocollared cougars Both cougars struck on the 91 Fwy in 2008 were within a short distance of the undercrossing, and were struck during early morning rush hour approximately 6:30 AM Datapoints from each individual mountain lion are a different color Datapoints are cumulative for the entire time of the study and do not represent the numbers or locations of mountain lions present at any given point in time. Red crosses denote approximate sites where cougars have been struck by cars

31 If you build it will they always use it? Culvert 50 meters from where F50 was struck by car One of 3 within a half mile stretch of the site No tall fencing present to funnel wildlife into safe passages

32 Northern Santa Ana Mtns Following slides move south along eastern escarpment.cougars routinely utilize the lower ridges, canyons, and escarpment between and around fingers of development Datapoints from each individual mountain lion are a different color Datapoints are cumulative for the entire time of the study and do not represent the numbers or locations of mountain lions present at any given point in time.

33 Datapoints from each individual mountain lion are a different color Datapoints are cumulative for the entire time of the study and do not represent the numbers or locations o mountain lions present at any given point in time.

34 Datapoints from each individual mountain lion are a different color Datapoints are cumulative for the entire time of the study and do not represent the numbers or locations of mountain lions present at any given point in time.

35 Datapoints from each individual mountain lion are a different color Datapoints are cumulative for the entire time of the study and do not represent the numbers or locations o mountain lions present at any given point in time.

36 Datapoints from each individual mountain lion are a different color Datapoints are cumulative for the entire time of the study and do not represent the numbers or locations of mountain lions present at any given point in time. Cougars utilize narrow strips of remaining habitat along escarpment as one of 2 remaining wild habitat pathways to and from the Santa Rosa Plateau Reserve LaCresta Community Santa Rosa Plateau

37 Datapoints from each individual mountain lion are a different color Datapoints are cumulative for the entire time of the study and do not represent the numbers or locations of mountain lions present at any given point in time.

38 Santa Ana to Palomar Mt. s Linkage Red dots represent all mt. lion datapoints to date in the area of the Santa Ana to Palomar Mt. s linkage. Red lines connect datapoints that are adjacent to each other in time. Red lines do not represent exact paths traveled by mt. lions between any 2 data points.

39 Possible future disruptions of Santa Ana to Palomar Mountains corridor Proposed gravel mine, highway interchange, and high speed rail line Red dots represent all mt. lion datapoints to date in the area of the Santa Ana to Palomar Mt. s linkage. Red lines connect datapoints that are adjacent to each other in time. Red lines do not represent exact paths traveled by mt. lions between any 2 data points.

40 Temecula Creek Bridge and culverts are regarded as primary potential I-15 crossing points, but no collared cougars have utilized them to date Datapoints from each individual mountain lion are a different color Datapoints are cumulative for the entire time of the study and do not represent the numbers or locations of mountain lions present at any given point in time. M56 chose to cross at a highway undercrossing located in a matrix of ag lands, residences, and fragmented wildlands

41 Roads and barriers Busy roads are both barriers to cougar movement and hazards to them and other wildlife when crossing is attempted Most roads and highways in southern California have no effective restrictions to cougars entering the roadway, and some have few other options for safe wildlife crossing Cougars and deer sometimes enter roadways, if not prevented from doing so by fencing, even when safer crossing options are nearby. This may occur in relation to behavioral, energetic, situational, geographic / habitat, or other reasons that are poorly understood at this time. Preservation and improvement of existing safe crossing points, or creation of new crossing structures, may increase the ability of cougars to safely move between habitat patches

42 Use of habitat near human development appears to increase cougar exposure to anticoagulant rodenticides, and possibly disease transmitted by domestic cats or bobcats attracted to food sources associated with humans Habitat use Cougars utilize wildlands at the edges of suburban development, and even golf courses, as well as trails used by humans, but typically from dusk to dawn, and are rarely seen. Deer and other wildlife prey of cougars can be attracted to these areas because of water sources and other food such as planted vegetation and pet food left out Our surveys have shown that residents favor the continued presence of mountain lions, but that nearly half of owners of domestic animals in lion habitat do not currently adequately protect their animals at night

43 Barriers to Habitat Connectivity The largest barriers to connectivity between blocks of habitat appear to be roads, especially freeways, and development Freeways like I-15 and the 91 Freeway have very few remaining suitable passages that allow wildlife like mountain lions to cross safely Mountain lions (including a number of study lions) are killed regularly while trying to cross these and other roads and freeways The Mexican border with its extensive fencing and human presence creates a different kind of barrier to wildlife movement

44 Research helps us continue to better understand puma behavior, disease, and habitat needs. Information can help scarce conservation dollars be most effectively used

45 The UC Davis Wildlife Health Center is dedicated to balancing the needs of people, wildlife, and the environment. We seek to restore and maintain wildlife, human and environmental health. We use science, technology and education as our tools.

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