Archived News

Fact sheet: Information about the Wildlife Health Center’s research report (January 2004) on the interactions of mountain lions and people in Southern California

January 20, 2004

How did scientists study mountain lions in this region?

Though Cuyamaca Rancho State Park has been known to be home to mountain lions, few visitors ever get the chance to see them. Scientists placed collars with radio transmitters on 20 lions in the park area. Throughout the study, using GPS technology, the scientists "followed" these lions' movements throughout the days and months. This report compares the "paths" of 20 collared lions with locations of trails and roads used by park visitors to see if lions and people use the park area in different ways.

Why Cuyamaca Rancho State Park?

In 1994, a woman hiking in this park was attacked and killed by a mountain lion. As a result, management agencies and the local community are interested in using science to better understand how mountain lions and people affect each other. The park receives about half a million visitors annually. Bordering one of the most populated regions in the country, CRSP is one of the best places to understand how mountain lions live and act when people have moved into their habitat.

What did the study find out?

Ø Mountain lions are active when we are not. Lions moved around the most during the night, dusk and dawn. Dawn and dusk are the times when people have a higher chance of running into a mountain lion.

Ø "Cache sites," places where lions hide their killed prey, were found most often near roads and trails—areas people used frequently during the day.

Ø Deer were the lions’ most common prey, but seven of 17 lions ate domestic animals (pets, livestock) at some point during the study

Ø Survival for mountain lions in this region was quite low (11 of the 20 died)

o 4 killed on depredation permits

o 4 died of unknown causes

o 1 hit by car

o 1 killed by another mountain lion

o 1 died in the Cedar Fire

What did the report recommend to management agencies?

Ø Implement community education programs about living in mountain lion habitat

Ø Use the data from this report in the planning of new campsites to avoid potential encounters between visitors and mountain lions

Ø Move food from any cache site found near trails to an area with less public use

Ø    Continue research on the interactions of people and mountain lions in this region, especially now that the Cedar Fire has dramatically changed the landscape

How do I find out more?

Visit the Wildlife Health Center’s Southern California Program Website  

Read the press release about the report on the first three years of the Southern California Puma Project, a long-term research study conducted by UC Davis for California State Parks in and around Cuyamaca Rancho State Park in San Diego County

Cat Facts

Ø Living with California Mountain Lions Includes safety tips on living in mountain lion habitat, mountain lion natural history information, and a map of where lions live in California

Ø California’s Mountain Lion Laws

Ø The Mountain Lion Foundation’s guide to Proposition 117 and the implementation of mountain lion laws in California

Ø Tips on hiking with your dog in mountain lion habitat