Oakland Zoo Mountain Lion Initiative
Oakland Zoo is committed to the conservation of mountain lions and is proud to have the staffing and resources to take action for this iconic, native species.
Oakland Zoo Mountain Lion Initiative
Known as mountain lion, cougar, puma and panther, the elusive “cat of one color” has inspired more names- 40 in English alone- than perhaps any other animal in the world. The mountain lion is the largest wild cat in North America. Mountain lions have powerful limbs and can leap as high as 18 feet and as far as 30 feet. Native to the Americas, mountain lions have the largest geographic range of any carnivore in the Western Hemisphere and can be found from the Yukon to the southern Andes. Here in the Bay Area, lions are known to roam the Santa Cruz Mountains, and varied ranges in the East Bay.
The status of mountain lions is very much in question. The true health of populations in the United States, Mexico, Central and South America is virtually unknown.
The Conservation Issue:
As mountain lion habitat is increasingly fragmented and movement corridors are blocked by human development, more sightings and encounters with pumas are likely. Pumas are being killed more often by cars and depredation permits (issued when livestock or pets are attacked), and increasing news reports of puma encounters are driving growing public concern. With human encroachment continuing to degrade wildlife habitat, it is vital to address these conflicts before ecosystems are compromised irreversibly.
Oakland Zoo’s Role:
Oakland Zoo is proud to be involved in the conservation of mountain lions. The zoo has been a long-time supporter of the Bay Area Puma Project and the Mountain Lion Foundation, and voted for the Bay Area Puma Project as 2013s Quarters for Conservation featured project. Our conservation staff has established an excellent working relationship with various mountain lion-based organizations in and around the bay area, as well as with staff of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. We recognize that this beautiful, local carnivore has the same human-wildlife conflict challenges as do large carnivores all over the world, that solutions are attainable, and that Oakland Zoo has the resources to help.
- Outreach and Education: The Bay Area Puma Project and the Mountain Lion Foundation have both been featured at Oakland Zoo’s Earth Day over the years, as well as in public presentations. Mountain Lion issues and solutions have been featured in our Clorox Wildlife Theater presentations.
- Fundraising: Oakland Zoo raised over $21,000 for the Bay Area Puma Project in 2013 with Quarters for Conservation and has provided grants in previous years.
- Quarters for Conservation: The Zoo chose The Bay Area Puma Project as a 2012-2013 Quarters for Conservation featured project.
- Legalities and Policy: Oakland Zoo, along with other entities, worked together to pass SB 132 which went into law on January 1st, 2014.
- Human-Wildlife Conflict Training: In 2012, Oakland Zoo conservation department had the opportunity to host a five day intensive training with the Human Wildlife Conflict Collaboration www.humanwildlifeconflict.org. Among the wildlife specialist from around the world that participated, many bay area mountain lion stakeholders took part in this ground-breaking work. Through the coming together of these various agencies, non-profits, local parks, the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife and mountain lion researchers, an alliance was formed.
- BACAT: The alliance, called the Bay Area Cougar Action Team (BACAT), has been meeting since April 2013 to create methods to support the California Department of Fish and Wildlife with their new guidelines around mountain lion encounters. BACAT celebrates the passing of SB 132, a measure that allows various non-profits and other individuals and organizations help the CADFW address incidences of mountain lions in human populated areas, and looks forward to creating a model support system that can be duplicated throughout California and beyond. Members of Oakland Zoo’s staff will participate in response team efforts that will attend to an incident of a mountain lion contact.
- Mountain Lion Holding and Vet Care: Oakland Zoo has offered our new veterinary facility to care for and hold a wild lion that is need of temporary care until a decision is made of where the cat can be released.
- Research: Oakland Zoo vets and staff will also be involved in various puma research projects in the East Bay.
How You Can Help:
Coexistence with Mountain Lions: Bobcats, Coyotes, and Mountain Lions that become used to human presence can lose their natural wariness of us. If we offer or allow access to food even once, we end up with wildlife that associates us with food. Although the risk of encountering mountain lions is very low, take steps to prevent problems with wildcats and encourage your neighbors to follow the same steps.
- Landscape for safety. Remove dense or low-lying vegetation that provides hiding places for mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and other predators near your house. Choose plants that do not attract deer or other prey. Appropriate fencing will make your yard or play area uninviting to prey animals such as deer.
- Consider other deterrents. Outdoor lighting, motion sensors and electric fencing may deter prey animals and large cats from entering your yard and make approaching animals more visible to you.
- Drive safely. Obey speed limits and reduce your speed in wildlife areas. Be extra alert during dawn, dusk and at night.
- Don’t litter. Human food attracts wildlife and litter thrown from a car attracts wildlife to roadsides.
- Be alert from dusk until dawn (and whenever deer are active). Mountain lions are primarily active at night. Be aware of your surroundings and supervise children when outdoors in areas where wild cats live.
- Keep prey away. Deer, raccoons, rabbits, armadillos and feral hogs are prey for large cats. By feeding deer or other wildlife, people inadvertently may attract carnivores. Do not leave potential wildlife food outside, such as unsecured garbage or pet food. Consider fencing fruit and vegetable gardens.
- Keep pets safe. Free-roaming, tethered or unfenced pets and hobby livestock are easy prey for predators. In some communities, it is illegal to let pets roam free. Bring pets inside or keep them in a secure, enclosed kennel at night. Feeding pets outside can attract raccoons and other prey; do not leave uneaten pet food available to wildlife.
- Keep domestic livestock safe. Place chickens, goats, sheep, hogs or other livestock in enclosed structures at night. Plans for building predator-proof enclosures for pets or livestock are available at the Mountain Lion Foundation. In addition, electric fencing can be an effective carnivore deterrent.
- Get past the myths and learn the facts about these incredible cats by visiting www.bapp.org or www.mountainlion.org
- Avoid encounters with pumas: www.bapp.org/living-with-pumas. If you do encounter a puma, here's how to handle it: www.bapp.org/report-a-sighting
- If you encounter a mountain lion, here is what to do: http://www.mountainlion.org/portalprotectencounters.asp
- If you see a puma in a developed area, it will probably leave on its own, but if it seems threatening or injured call the Department of Fish and Wildlife office for the Bay Delta region