MOJAVE DESERT – The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) noted, in a 2021 report, two mountain lions starved to death after the department relocated them to the Mojave Desert. Activists now want to hold the CDFW accountable for their actions.
“In hindsight, it wasn’t a good place to release those lions, and we’re not moving them to that environment anymore,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Tom Stephenson.
CDFW described the incidents in their annual Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Recovery Program report. The CDFW website says the program is specifically charged with implementing the recovery of Sierra bighorn, which they say is one of the rarest large mammals in North America.
The program monitors mountain lions as well to assess the impact of predation on bighorn sheep populations.
Mountain Lion relocation
Mountain lions labeled L147 and L176 were captured, on separate dates, after both were found preying on Sierra bighorns in Mono County. The department released them over 200 miles away in the Mescal Mountain range in the Mojave Desert.
“Both L147 and L176 struggled to find prey in an unfamiliar environment. L147 was found dead on 3/29/2021 in an emaciated condition, suggesting starvation as the cause of mortality. L176 also exhibited homing behavior and was recaptured on the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station on 5/5/2021 (Figure 18),” says the 2021 Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Recovery Program report.
The report goes on to say that L176 was in an extremely emaciated condition and had to be euthanized in May 2021 after being translocated again to the San Bernardino National Forest.
“The decision to release L147 and L176 in the Mescal Range was primarily motivated by interest in gathering data on wildlife corridors crossing I-15,” says the report. The staff noted that both L147 and L176 used separate underpasses to cross I-15, which they say demonstrates the importance of wildlife crossing corridors on major roadways.
Holding CDFW accountable
A concerned citizen started a Change.org petition to hold CDFW accountable for the death of the mountain lions.
The petition cites several studies on the mistreatment of mountain lions. This includes a Center for Biological Diversity report that says over 100 mountain lions have been killed under depredation permits issued by CDFW between 2017 and 2020.
The petition calls for Governor Gavin Newsom, the California State Legislature, and the CDFW to conduct a thorough investigation into the decision-making process that led to the transport of L147 and L176.
The recovery program report also notes that there was one Sierra bighorn mortality during the capturing of female S581. All captures are performed with a net gun fired from a helicopter.
To read the 2020-2021 Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Recovery Program report visit https://thehdpost.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/Monitoring2021Status-1.pdf