California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Currently Permitted Mountain Lion Research Projects

Pursuant to Fish and Game Code section 4810, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife may issue a Scientific Collecting Permit to entities for research projects involving mountain lion captures. This page provides an Executive Summary for CDFW-permitted mountain lion research projects currently occurring in California.

Southern California Mountain Lion Study

University of California, Davis - Wildlife Health Center
Dr. Walter Boyce, DVM, PhD, MPVM, Dr. Winston Vickers, DVM, MPVM

Mountain lions in California are important indicators of ecosystem health and connectivity, especially in southern California where the landscape is highly fragmented by previous and ongoing / planned human development. This research will expand knowledge regarding mountain lion disease and toxin exposure, genetics, and interactions with wildlife prey species, humans, and domestic animals. Additionally, this research will assess mountain lion use of specific southern California conserved lands, linkages, and road crossings in order to help guide conservation and road planning decisions.

Santa Cruz Puma Project

University of California, Santa Cruz
Dr. Chris W. Wilmers, PhD

This study will contribute to the knowledge of natural wildlife ecosystems by evaluating the relationship between landscape features, energetic demand, physiological capabilities, and foraging strategies in the puma.  For the first time, field energetic costs of a large carnivorous felid will be measured and related to the behavior and ecology of individuals.  We will use a laboratory-to-field approach to develop, calibrate and test a collar, the ANIMA (Accelerometer Network Integrator for Mobil Animals) that can be used to assess continuous time-energy budgets, movement patterns, behavioral diaries, and daily energetic costs of puma.

Habitat loss and fragmentation are well known to cause species declines and extinctions (Pimm et al. 1995, Fahrig 2003).  Fragmentation has also been shown to influence the stability of predator-prey interactions (Levin 1976, Hastings 1977, Hanski and Ranta 1983), yet experimental tests are based largely on small scale experiments using insects (e.g., Kareiva 1987).  While it is generally known that as habitat patch size declines, large predators become locally extinct resulting in meso-predator release (Crooks and Soule 1999), the degree to which fragmentation influences predator energy costs and ecological impacts is not well understood.  A mechanistic theory that can predict, not just whether a species can persist or not, but also the extent to which its ecological impact is attenuated, magnified or otherwise altered as fragmentation increases is needed.

Human development in and near open space in the United States and internationally is increasingly fragmenting wilderness areas causing declines and local extinctions of top predators.  Developing an understanding of the physiological demands and ecology of large predators in fragmented habitats will thus be crucial to preserving these species and their impacts on ecosystem processes.  Yet most studies of large predators are conducted in large national or otherwise protected parks.  By conducting our study on pumas in a highly fragmented area of both public and private lands in the San Francisco Bay Area, our proposed project will support the sustainability and survival of puma populations and healthy ecosystems.

East Bay Puma Project

Felidae Conservation Fund
Zara McDonald, MBA, Dr. Anne M. Orlando, PhD

Pumas in the San Francisco East Bay region represent an apparently intact population of an apex predator living close to humans.  We propose a long-term ecological research and public outreach program to conserve viable populations of pumas and associated wildlife communities in this developing region, containing a mixture of dense urban, suburban, and rural development interspersed with wild lands.  Further development has the potential to increase conflicts with humans, increase puma mortality rates, and to isolate segments of the population making them no longer viable, with potentially negative impacts on ecological functions.  The project will provide information needed to ensure the future of pumas in this region, and to guide puma management in areas with increasing human presence.  We will study puma ecology using a combination of intensive field tracking, remote cameras, lightweight GPS collars, GIS spatial modeling, and advanced genetics work at the population and individual levels.  Information collected will be used to estimate, delineate and determine the genetic health of the population; create habitat use profiles and rank habitat values across the region; identify barriers to movement and create habitat linkage strategies; study puma behavior at the urban interface; aid in the design of wildlife crossings for highways; and alleviate human-caused puma mortality and puma-human conflict.  Linked to this study, we will conduct an education and outreach program in local schools and communities to promote and enable coexistence of humans and wildlife communities, including pumas, in the urban interface. 

Intent to collar and monitor mountain lions in the Kings River Area of the Sierra National Forest

United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service
Dr. Craig M. Thompson, PhD

Over the past 5 years, research on fisher (Pekania pennanti) ecology in the Sierra Nevada Mountains has identified mountain lion predation as a primary source of mortality for fishers, accounting for 36% of all mortality and 50% of all predation.  Specifically, predation on adult female fishers during the denning season appears to be a potential limiting factor to population expansion.  What is unknown is whether current lion predation rates on fishers are similar to historical rates, or whether changes in predator densities, forest structure, fire frequency, or human activity have altered the balance between the two native species.

In the Kings River area of the Sierra National Forest, fisher monitoring, including trapping, telemetry, and scat detector dog surveys, has been ongoing since 2007, with current funding available through 2013.  In 2010, the Sierra National Forest initiated a multi-stakeholder project (Dinkey Collaborative) charged with designing and implementing fuel reduction projects in the same area.  Discussions are currently underway to extend the fisher monitoring program through 2018 in order to capitalize on the before-after/control-impact research opportunity: monitoring the impacts of fuel treatment activities on fisher survival, reproduction, and habitat use.  We propose to capture, collar, and monitor lions within the two primary watersheds of the Kings River area, concurrent in space and time with both the fisher monitoring program and the fuel reduction program.  Primary objectives would be 1) to concurrently document fisher and lion movement patterns, and to identify areas or habitats where interactions were likely, 2) to generate a ‘risk-based’ habitat model for fishers to quantify the likeliness of encountering a mountain lion, 3) to better understand how vegetation and fuel management by the USFS can mitigate or enhance this risk, and 4) to quantify predation rates by lions on numerous prey species including ungulates and mesocarnivores.  Secondary objectives include 1) overlapping the work described above with ongoing bobcat (Lynx rufus) monitoring in the area led by G. Wengert to better understand carnivore community interactions and how these interactions are impacted by vegetation management, 2) evaluate the exposure of mountain lions to rodenticides, insecticides, and other toxins currently being found in fishers and presumed to come from illegal marijuana cultivation sites, and 3) conduct a concurrent camera trapping grid to validate a non- invasive approach to estimating lion abundance currently being developed in Wyoming.  Sufficient funding and in-kind contribution have been secured to address the first three primary objectives. Funding is currently being sought to address the remaining objectives.