SACRAMENTO, Calif.— In response to a petition authored by the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Fish and Game Commission will vote April 16 on advancing Southern California and Central Coast mountain lions to candidates for protection under the state’s Endangered Species Act.
“We’re glad to see commissioners taking up the urgent issue of safeguards for California’s iconic mountain lions,” said Tiffany Yap, a biologist at the Center and primary author of the petition. “Key populations of these magnificent animals are in serious danger, and they need protection under our Endangered Species Act.”
What: California Fish and Game Commission vote on whether to grant Southern California and Central Coast mountain lion populations candidacy status under the Act.
When: Thursday, April 16, at 9 a.m. The mountain lion vote is the final item on the agenda, so it may not occur until the afternoon.
Where: Webinar and teleconference details are forthcoming.
Who: Tiffany Yap, Ph.D, a scientist in the Center’s Oakland office, and J.P. Rose, an attorney in the Center’s Los Angeles office, are available via video or telephone for media interviews after the vote.
Genetic isolation due to roads and development threatens the health of the six puma populations included in the petition. Despite a sport-hunting ban, some California populations have low survival rates due to high levels of human-caused mortalities. Major threats include car strikes, poisonings and sanctioned depredation kills.
If nothing is done to improve connectivity for these wide-ranging large carnivores, populations in the Santa Ana and Santa Monica mountains could go extinct within 50 years, researchers warn. Cougar populations in the Santa Cruz, San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains are showing similar patterns.
The Center and Mountain Lion Foundation submitted the petition in June 2019. In February 2020 state officials recommended the petition move forward. On April 10, 89 organizations, including leading conservation and animal-protection groups, submitted a joint letter in support of the petition, and thousands of Californians have sent emails to the commission.
A favorable vote would trigger a year-long review to determine if these populations should be formally protected under the Act. The Act’s protections apply during the candidacy period.
Such protections would help address the many threats these lions face. Local authorities would need to coordinate with state wildlife experts to ensure that approved development projects account for mountain lion connectivity. State agencies also would have a legal mandate to protect mountain lions. This could include building wildlife crossings over existing freeways.