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MOUNTAIN LION

Damage and Damage Identification

Mountain lions are predators on sheep, goats, cattle, and horses. House cats, dogs, pigs, and poultry are also prey. Damage is often random and unpredictable, but when it occurs, it can consist of large numbers of livestock killed in short periods of time. Cattle, horse, and burro losses are often chronic in areas of high lion populations. Lions are considered to have negative impacts on several bighorn sheep herds in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado.

In areas of low deer numbers, mountain lions may kill deer faster than deer can reproduce, thus inhibiting deer population growth. This usually occurs only in situations where alternative prey keep lions in the area and higher deer populations are not close by.

Lions are opportunistic feeders on larger prey, including adult elk and cattle. Individual lions may remain with a herd and prey on it consistently for many weeks, causing significant number reductions. Mountain lions cause about 20% of the total livestock predation losses in western states annually. Historically, lion damage was suffered by relatively few livestock producers who operate in areas of excellent lion habitat and high lion populations. This historic pattern has changed in recent years, as lion distribution has spread, resulting in frequent sightings and occasional damage in residential developments adjacent to rangelands, montane forests, and other mountain lion habitat. Predation typically is difficult to manage although removal of the offending animals is possible if fresh kills can be located.

Sheep, goats, calves, and deer are typically killed by a bite to the top of the neck or head. Broken necks are common. Occasionally, mountain lions will bite the throat and leave marks similar to those of coyotes. The upper canine teeth of a mountain lion, however, are farther apart and considerably larger than a coyote’s (1 1/2 to 2 1/4 inches [3.8 to 5.7 cm] versus 1 1/8 to 1 3/8 inches [2.8 to 3.5 cm]). Claw marks are often evident on the carcass. Mountain lions tend to cover their kills with soil, leaves, grass, and other debris. Long scratch marks (more than 3 feet [1 m]) often emanate from a kill site. Occasionally, mountain lions drag their prey to cover before feeding, leaving well-defined drag marks.

Tracks of the mountain lion are generally hard to observe except in snow or on sandy ground. The tracks are relatively round, and are about 4 inches (10 cm) across. The three-lobed heel pad is very distinctive and separates the track from large dog or coyote tracks. Claw marks will seldom show in the lion track. Heel pad width ranges from 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm). The tracks of the front foot are slightly larger than those of the hind foot. The four toes are somewhat teardrop shaped and the rear pad has three lobes on the posterior end.


Trapping

Leghold Traps. Mountain lions are extremely strong and require very strong traps. Well-bedded Newhouse traps in size No. 4 or 4 1/2 are recommended (Fig 3). Recommended sets are shown in figures 3 and 4. Use large heavy drags, sturdy stakes, or substantial trees, posts, or rocks to anchor traps to ensure against escape.

Mountain lions are easily trapped along habitual travel ways, in areas of depredations, and at kill sites. Although blind sets are usually made in narrow paths frequented by lions, baits made of fish products, poultry, porcupine, rabbits, or deer parts, as well as curiosity lures like catnip, oil of rhodium, and house cat urine and gland materials are effective attractants. Mountain lions are very curious and respond to hanging and moving flags of skin, feathers, or bright objects.

Leg Snares. Leg snares can be vey effective.  Substitute leg snares for the No. 4 or 4 1/2 leghold traps. The Aldrich-type foot snare can be used to catch mountain lions. This set is made on trails frequented by lions; stones or sticks are used to direct foot placement over the triggering device.

Snares. Snares can be set to kill mountain lions or hold them alive for tranquilization.  They should be suspended in lion runways and trails or set with baits in cubby arrangements.

Kill snares should be placed with the bottom of the loop approximately 16 inches (40 cm) above the ground with a loop diameter of 12 to 16 inches (30 to 41 cm). Snares intended to capture lions alive should be placed with the bottom of the loop 14 inches (36 cm) from the ground and a loop diameter of 18 to 20 inches (46 to 51 cm). Snares set for live capture should be checked daily from a distance.

Cage Traps. Large, portable cage traps are used by USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services personnel in California to capture moutain lions that kill pets and livestock in suburban areas and on small rural holdings. The traps are constructed of 4-foot (120-cm) wide, 4-foot (120-cm) high, 10-foot (3-m) long welded-wire stock panels with 2 x 4-inch (5 x 10-cm) grid. The trap is placed where the mountain lion left the kill, and it is baited with the remains of the kill.

 NOTE: ShopTJB does not currently sell any traps that are large enough for the safe capture of lager Mountain Lions.  

Mountain Lion

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