California wildfires may have killed hundreds of cougars

An adult male mountain lion with Mt. Diablo in the background. Credit: S. Bobzien

Wildfires that tore through California have killed up to 600 mountain lions, according to a recent estimate. Fires in the western state have burned more than 4 million acres of land, including land where mountain lions (Puma concolor) roam, according to Panthera, a global wild cat conservation organization. Panthera scientists used mountain lion density information from previous research in the same areas that were burned by fires in California in 2020. They estimate between 300 and 600 may have been killed — some 15% of the state’s population. “California’s native wildlife and plants evolved in habitats with regular fires, but these mega-fires present a whole new challenge,” said Veronica Yovovich, a conservation scientist with the Panthera Puma Program, in a press release. “Climate change has made fires bigger, longer, and more frequent. Compounding fire with pressures from illegal killing, vehicle collisions, rodenticides and other toxicants, and conflict with humans, mountain lions face more threats now than ever.”

Read more at Panthera.