Mountain lions face greater risk of becoming roadkill in wildfire’s aftermath, study says
Mountain lion cubs are seen resting after a recent rain in Joshua Tree National Park, Calif. Photo: Eric Risberg for The Washington Post/Getty Images
People are the most common victims of roadkill in California, including people who are hit by the animal’s claws and teeth. But studies suggest a shift is happening in how people are being targeted. A new report from the Humane Society of the U.S. found that mountain lions have become more abundant in the state over the past decade.
That means people are increasingly likely to be struck by a mountain lion while driving on the state’s roads and highways. This trend is particularly acute in the San Jacinto Mountains, where the state’s largest population of mountain lions lives and where people are hit by more injuries than any other place in California, the report found.
“We expect that when people are driving on these roadways, and they see mountain lions, they’re likely to realize they should be more cautious,” said Dr. Mike Hartman, who oversees the organization’s research on mountain lions. “The most vulnerable groups of people are those that are most at risk for being hit by mountain lions. It’s an under-recognized risk.”
In total, there were 6.1 injuries to people per 100,000 people in the San Andreas Fault in Northern California in 2015, compared with just 0.7 injuries per 100,000 people in 2009, when the San Andreas fault shifted and caused the first big earthquake in the state’s history. During the same period in 2015, there were more than 15 mountain lions killed by traffic in the San Jacinto Mountains. The report noted the number of injured mountain lions in the park as an indicator of an increasing number of roadkill incidents.
The number of mountain lion kills in the San Jacinto Mountains has increased since 2010, from 18 to 31. And the total number of injuries from mountain lions in 2015 was 10,067 out of the 5,092 recorded. The Humane Society is working to increase the number of injured mountain lions the following year, and to get people aware about wildlife safety on the road.
“We want to stop this,” Hartman said. “The next step is to get people to realize what a huge problem this is.”