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
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.
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
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
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.