Apr 8, 2017
by Wendy Coy, Audubon Canyon Ranch (ACR), Glenn Ellen, CA
Biologists from Audubon Canyon Ranch (ACR), a regional leader in conservation science, announced the discovery of three 10-day old mountain lion kittens belonging to P1, a female mountain lion enlisted in their research study. The den was located the Glen Ellen / Kenwood vicinity of Sonoma County.
This marks the first offspring born to a subject of the study and was especially exciting for the researchers who have tracked P1 for the past six months. P1 is estimated to be 10 years old. When she was collared in October 2016, she was traveling with two offspring, a male and a female, estimated to be about 11 months old at the time. By late December the juvenile lions had dispersed, but not before her daughter (P2) was also fitted with a GPS collar.
The kittens will be monitored from a distance by the team in coming weeks.
Earlier in the week, the ACR team captured and collared their first adult male mountain lion. Named P5 for research purposes, he is the fifth lion captured, and the 4th to be fitted with a GPS collar. He is expected to have a large home range, possibly up to or even more than 200 square miles. P5 is estimated to be 8 years old. Despite being in good condition, he only weighed 110lb. Males can get up to 160lb on the upper end of the scale.
P5 may have three or even four females within his territorial range. The kittens documented this week could very well be his offspring.
P5’s capture and collaring was attended by Dr. Quinton Martins, ACR Mountain Lion Project lead researcher, two team members, veterinarian Dr. Jim Codington, and with the close cooperation of two landowners in the area. ACR’s researchers used a humanely-designed cage trap to capture the animal. The trap was fitted with a radio trap transmitter and motion-activated cameras, allowing the team to be notified instantly once the mountain lion was inside minimizing stress and possible injury to the animal. Biological samples will be analyzed at UC Davis, and will provide vital genetic and health information about the local population of mountain lions.
A couple of days after being collared in Bennett Valley, pings from his radio collar indicated that P5 had moved 15 miles east into Napa. “We can’t wait to see where he goes from here and what his movements are,” said Dr. Martins.
“We are grateful to the many landowners in this area who are interested in mountain lions and willing to provide us access to their land. We are also grateful for financial support from the community,” said John Petersen, ACR Executive Director. Other project partners include the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), California State Parks, Sonoma County Regional Parks, and Sonoma Land Trust.
The ACR Mountain Lion Project studies mountain lions within an area that encompasses approximately 1,000 square miles, primarily in the Mayacamas Mountains (areas east of Hwy 101 and west of Hwy 29) in Sonoma and Napa Counties, and pairs the research with extensive education and outreach programs.
ACR’s research goals include using the data to gain a better understanding of how wildlife in general move between habitat areas. “Mountain lions are sometimes called an ‘umbrella species’ because they have large ranges and special habitat requirements,” said Jeanne Wirka, ACR’s Director of Stewardship. “If a mountain lion population is able to survive and thrive in a fragmented landscape, it suggests other animals can as well.”
The project is already yielding invaluable data for conservation efforts not just locally, but throughout California. Results of this work is closely monitored by CDFW, providing critical information for their statewide mountain lion conservation program.
The ACR Mountain Lion Project is funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Sonoma Land Trust, Bushtracks Expeditions, Patagonia, Disney Conservation Fund, and generous supporters of ACR.
Audubon Canyon Ranch is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit environmental conservation and education organization. It was founded in 1962 to safeguard Bolinas Lagoon from irresponsible development, leading the way for the protection of Tomales Bay.
Today, ACR acts as guardian of four main nature preserves in Marin, Sonoma and Lake counties. These 5,000 acres of tidal flats, marshlands, coastal prairie, oak woodlands and redwood groves provide significant habitat to wildlife and have been placed in our care by generous donors to steward and protect in perpetuity.
ACR’s programs are made possible thanks to the contribution of thousands of hours of volunteer service, and donations from caring individuals, foundations and businesses. Look for ACR on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For more information, visit www.egret.org, call 415-868-9244, or email email@example.com.