Necropsies performed on California mountain lions from 2006 to 2014 reveal that the big cats’ stomach contents contain significant amounts of domestic pets and livestock.
During this nine-year period, at least 281 mountain lions were killed under issued depredation permits. Of the lions taken, 209 were necropsied. An analysis of the stomach contents from these cats showed an average of 57 percent domestic pets and livestock. The majority of lions taken were males.
Mountain lion hunting is illegal in California. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, North America’s largest wild cat may be killed only if a depredation permit is issued, to preserve public safety, or to protect listed bighorn sheep.
In California, mountain lions are neither threatened nor endangered. On the contrary, lion populations are considered high in the Golden State. The inability for CDFW to establish seasons and bag limits for these apex predators is a result of a 1990 state ballot measure that banned mountain lion hunting in California.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the 1990 measure approved by the voters contained no science-based data that demonstrated the need to protect mountain lions. Instead, Proposition 117 states that “corridors of natural habitat must be preserved to maintain the genetic integrity of California’s wildlife.”
There have been 13 verified mountain lion attacks on humans in California since the hunting ban took effect. Three of these attacks were fatal. CDFW defines a mountain lion attack as a human-lion encounter that results in direct physical contact. Additionally, in order for an attack to be verified, a physician, law enforcement officer, or CDFW personnel must determine the injuries were inflicted by a mountain lion.
CDFW also tracks mountain lion encounters. An encounter is verified when responding personnel determines a human-lion incident occurred. Between 2009 and 2013, there were 739 verified incidents. Of those, 20 lions were killed for public safety reasons.
The Mountain Lion Foundation recommends the following in the event of a human-lion encounter.
- Look larger. Open your jacket and wave your arms slowly. If there are several people in a group, huddle together. Pick children up.
- Be loud. Shout or yell loudly. Let the lion know you are not standard prey.
- Don’t act like prey. Keep eye contact. Don’t run or crouch low. Throw rocks or sticks. Never turn away.
- Back away slowly. Don’t turn your back.
- Fight back if attacked. Protect your neck area.