Third mountain lion in study killed in Napa
Sarah C. Phelps
On Feb. 8, a third mountain lion, being tracked as part of the Living with Lions project based out of Audubon Canyon Ranch’s Bouverie Preserve in Glen Ellen, was shot and killed after depredating sheep in Napa County. A 13-month-old male lion P15 (called Jupiter), had been trapped and fitted with a GPS-collar three days earlier by scientists as part of the Living with Lions project, a California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW)-permitted study trying to understand the movement and behavior of mountain lions in the North Bay region.
The young male had been traveling with his mother through her territory range along the Sonoma/Napa border in the Mayacamas mountains, but recently left her to find territory of his own. On Tuesday, Feb. 5, after P15 killed a goat in Napa County, the distressed landowner contacted Audubon Canyon Ranch (ACR), allowing Living with Lions’ Dr. Quinton Martins to collar and release the young male. On two subsequent nights, P15 killed two sheep at a residence in the Mt. Veeder area. On Friday, when he returned for a third time, the landowner, fearing for his family, and hoping to protect his small herd, shot and killed the cat, according to a Feb. 12 Press Democrat article. The CDFW investigated the incident, verified that the sheep were killed, and that the family had reached out several times to the agency. The family did not request a depredation permit, but under state law, a landowner does not need to have one if the livestock is in imminent danger.
P15 is the third lion in the two-year-old Living with Lions study to be killed by a landowner after depredating livestock. To date, the study is tracking six collared lions whose home territories range from Trione-Annadel State Park to Temelec and Sugarloaf State Park to Vineburg.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of (another) one of our study animals and also the unnecessary trauma on the landowner’s unsecured animals,” said a statement issued by ACR on Facebook.
“Quinton Martins, the director of Living with Lions, received the news from a concerned neighbor and wanted to reiterate that we, as a community, need to understand that all predators will kill unprotected pets or livestock. It is 100 percent our responsibility to take care of our pets and livestock before conflict occurs. Killing the wild predator is not an effective or reasonable long-term strategy for properly managing pets or livestock.”
The incident has received considerable attention on social media, according to Wendy Coy, communications manager for ACR. The important thing to remember is that Sonoma County is mountain lion territory.
“It’s not a rarity to have mountain lions in our area,” said Coy. “People need to factor in mountain lions when thinking about housing options and protecting their livestock.”
Coy reminded small flock owners to reach out to Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue to learn more about secure “predator proof” housing options and for those who have a conflict with a mountain lion to please call ACR before opting for a depredation permit.
“This family needs help from the community on ways to safeguard their backyard livestock. It’s a very sad and preventable situation,” she said.
Last year, First District Supervisor Susan Gorin urged collaboration between the agriculture community and the wildlife community, in the hopes that nonlethal measures can be utilized to protect livestock.