The Arizona Game and Fish Department, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is using modern technology to build a data set on mountain lion predation on bighorn sheep. It is worth noting, that contrary to popular opinion, the mountain lion population is neither threatened, endangered, or at risk, and they are the most broadly distributed large mammal species in North America.
In less than six months, one radio collared mountain lion killed fourteen bighorn sheep.
At this pace, this mountain lion could remove thirty-seven bighorn sheep annually. To put this in perspective, annual yearling recruitment for this herd of bighorn sheep is only thirty-nine animals. Mountain lion predation on bighorn sheep is a big deal.
Once a localized wildlife population has zero recruitment or less, meaning it’s not replacing lost animals from standard mortalities, it’s just a matter of time before you will lose that population.
Proposed predation management plans “do not set out to eliminate mountain lions, but to manage the level of mountain lion predation on bighorn sheep,” say biologists. “Mountain lions are a valued game species, and are managed as an important part of the fauna and to provide mountain lion hunting recreation opportunity while maintaining existing occupied habitat and the present range of mountain lions.”
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