Mountain lions are eating California wild donkeys. Why scientists say this is a good thing
On January 12, a female mountain lion was spotted about 40 miles from Lompoc, California. She circled a male donkeys, looking for a way in, and he let her have a taste. The lion ate six donkeys, an animal expert told the Bay Area News Group, before being chased off with a meat hook.
The story is dramatic and the mountain lions may be responsible for the deaths of dozens of donkeys, but it turns out that this was no one-off mistake. Scientists think lions are eating the donkeys because they are becoming a menace in their own right. This summer, in California, lions are killing more than 20 horses and mule deer, the National Park Service reported.
The mountains of California are home to one of the last free-ranging mountain lions, which are about the size of a small dog.
Researchers don’t know why they are killing so many of the animals — in some cases, in one or two hours. But they are.
“We’re seeing a pattern that is growing,” says Thomas Rinchen, a biologist with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area who is studying the animals. On his list of concerns: “Livestock depredation is a growing problem.”
Rinchen is one of a small number of conservationists and land managers who study the wildlife in the San Francisco Bay Area. The region’s open spaces and natural beauty are under pressure.
Researchers are seeing a pattern that is growing: Livestock depredation is growing and wild animals are dying in numbers that have not been seen in decades or centuries.
San Francisco is home to numerous endangered species of wildlife, including the giant sequoia, the California condor, the great blue heron, the gray whale, the manakin, the orca and more. In the past decade, the number of mountain lions in the area is up 50 percent, and that may not be sustainable, Rinchen says. The population must grow.
“The number of mountain lions is dropping rapidly, and we need to grow them back,” Rinchen said.
Here are some things about lions and