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Predator Profile: Mountain Lion

Mountain lion goes by many names in North America and South America but it all leads to the same species.

Photo credit: Christian Osorio/Proyecto Carnivoros Australes

Name: Mountain Lion (Puma concolor)

Weight: Dramatically varies between location with females being (64-120lbs) and males (120-220lbs)

Height: 22-28 inches at shoulder height

Legal status: Protected in the State of California. No hunting or trapping. Some populations can be subjected to depredation permits

Habitat & Range:

Mountain lions can be found across most of California so long as suitable habitat exists. They prefer areas with a brush and cover that allows them to hunt. They might wander into grassland areas but will not occupy them as it leaves them exposed. If there is a healthy ungulate population odds are eventually a mountain lion will be there. Their territory can be very big and often incorporate a few bodies of water where possible.


Mountain lions rely heavily on ungulate populations. In California, this often is deer, elk, and sometimes pronghorn. They will predate on feral pigs and other small animals but prefer ungulates.

Photo credit: Mitchell Parsons

Non-lethal management:

Mountain lions respond very well to fox lights, critter gitters, and human voices. A few weatherproof radio boxes loaded with podcasts or a talk show will ensure that mountain lions will stir clear of any areas you want to defend. Overnight fencing is also highly effective although it does need to be secured as mountain lions, being cats, can enter in fairly small spaces. Alternatively, mountain lions respond well to livestock guardian dogs or any dogs that bark. Dogs can be reliable and often present a challenge to mountain lions although it is best to keep a few together since a single livestock guardian dog can be picked off by mountain lions.

Lethal management:

With the exception of the South California population, a depredation permit can be issued if a mountain lion depredation occurs three times on a ranch/grazing allotment. According to California law, non-lethal deterrents have to be set up after the first depredation in order to give the mountain lion a fair chance of stopping the depredation. Alternatively, a mountain lion caught in the act of attacking livestock may be shot although that will trigger an investigation by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to determine the reasonable cause. Hunting, trapping, or poisoning mountain lions is illegal.

Positives and Negatives of Mountain lion on site:

Mountain Lion presence usually means that coyotes will steer clear or have reduced presence in the area. Furthermore, since they are territorial, if you know what deter the local lions and they are kept alive, they will keep other contenders from showing up.

Negatives of course are that depredation can happen and mountain lion human conflict can occur albeit rare. More often than not I'd worry more about domesticated animals. However, if deterrents are in place mountain lions shouldn't pose much of a problem.

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