David Tharp

Do you have a question about wild cats? Below are selected questions submitted to us for the Wild Cat Q&A for our e-Newsletter. To submit a question, email info@felidaefund.org.

Mark Andermahr

Question: Is there a better way to equip police officers and Fish and Game authorities with tranquilizers to decrease "safety-related" killings of mountain lions? Is this mostly a financial and political issue of not having the resources to provide training? If so is this a program that Felidae is working on? Are there any issues with the tranquilizers not working that well? Is the bigger issue that what do you do with the mountain lion after you tranquilize it since mountain lions can't just be moved to a new territory because there is no way to know if another mountain lion resides/owns that new land reserve and since Mountain lions are so territorial, this would lead to problems such as potentially a fight to the death or one mountain lion being forced to leave that territory and being pushed into human areas and potential issues with human-puma conflict?

Image above courtesy of Courtesy of Mark Andermahr from Report: Half Moon Bay mountain lion cubs were size of house cats in San Mateo County Times on December 21, 2012

Answer: This is a great question. Ideally in these scenarios, the mountain lion could be hazed away from the human neighborhood or town by loud noises, pepper balls or bean bag shots. If the puma is close enough to natural habitat, it can be driven back into the natural habitat with deterrent tactics, as an alternative to euthanasia, and to discourage the puma from re-entering developed areas. Usually, the mountain lion has chased a deer to that spot or ended up there unintentionally, and the cat may become disoriented. If the lion doesn't leave, and trained personnel with tranquilizer equipment are available, one ket question when tranquilizing a mountain lion is where to take the puma after it's tranquilized. Usually we do not have exact information on where the cat traveled from to the conflict zone. Placing the puma into the territory of another puma could lead to conflict with resident mountain lions. Some incidences of relocation have also led to death of the puma from starvation as it navigated new territory. If the puma happens to be wearing a GPS collar, it can be tranquilized and placed back into it's home range habitat, away from humans. In some cases, once the cat is tranquilized it is sent to a captive facility where it will most likely remain.

The other parts of this issue are the financial and political aspects. Financial resources are required to equip and train law enforcement officials and Fish and Game wardens in proper use of tranquilizer equipment. Many of these officials have never seen a mountain lion, and assessing the situation from afar is difficult without experience with handing predators outside of captive situations. Use of a tranquilizer gun requires knowledge of how to gauge the approximate weight of the animal to determine the amount of drug to administer, as well as gauging the distance to determine the appropriate pressure. The mountain lion can also be injured or killed by the dart if it makes contact with the head, an organ or the stomach, rather than the muscle of the shoulder or leg.

Providing the training to better handle these public safety incidents is a responsibility of our state and federal agencies because these incidents will increase with the continued increase in human population. Law enforcement, the California Department of Fish and Game, veterinarians, and biologists need to be in close communication. The development of protocols, training, and follow-up after each incident are the keystone to preventing the deaths of pumas in public safety incidents.

Felidae is currently working with partners to establish a protocol for the San Francisco Bay Area. This requires cooperation and facilitation from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, local police, biologists, stakeholders, and veterinarians. Discussions began in Southern California after the puma was shot in Santa Monica on May 22 of this year. Read the full article by the Orange County Register.



Question: Which is the world's smallest wild cat,
how big is it, and where does it live?


Answer:
Try to guess before reading the answer:
Smallest Felid


Q
uestion:
Why do bobcats have almost no tail when mountain lions have such long tails?

Kathleen Rose


Answer: Tails are used for balance when climbing trees and for navigating difficult terrain. Since bobcats primarily hunt on the ground and in fields for rodents and hares, they have not evolved with a long tail. In addition, it's an adaption that helps in catching prey in open fields - a twitching long tail may alert the prey, in addition to larger carnivores of the bobcat's presence.