Large cats are more than just predators roaming the night; they are integral to the habitats through which they thrive. Mountain lions control the herd sizes of the animals they hunt, which in turn keeps the foliage from being overgrazed, supporting other prey animals. So if mountain lions were endangered, that could pose a huge problem.
Mountain lion populations have proven stable, though are decreasing more rapidly than if their habitats weren’t interfered with by people. Let’s discover whether or not mountain lions are endangered now.
Are Mountain Lions Endangered?
The simple answer here is that no, mountain lions are not endangered. On the list of threatened species, mountain lions are classified as “least concern.” This means that they have been evaluated and are not considered at risk for extinction at this time as a whole.
Mountain lions are solitary animals who need a wide range of territory to wander. People have infringed upon their territory significantly, though they still have plenty of mountains for which they can trek in their attempt to hunt prey.
They are most at risk when near human populations because they end up stalking near people and eating livestock. When that happens, a community seeks to stay safe and may hunt the mountain lion. They tend to rove freely outward, so coming into contact with communities can be deadly.
When people also encroach on the areas in which a mountain lion’s prey lives, such as a deer, then mountain lions are more likely to starve. This is why we should be careful where we choose to expand.
A study of mountain lions in the Santa Monica area shows that the leading cause of death for these remarkable animals is vehicle collision, rat poison, and mountain lions killing others of their kind.
How Does Light Pollution Affect Mountain Lions?
Another threat to mountain lions’ lives and safety is light pollution. Light pollution is when the night’s natural darkness is infringed upon by city lights or other manufactured light sources.
What happens is that our lights make the sky less dark and block out the stars. This leads to confused animals whose natural nocturnal cycles are scattered. Animals like mountain lions rely on the positioning of the stars to know where they are headed, along with the night to see and hunt by.
Mark Ditmer, a scientist, did a study testing the effects of artificial light on “wide-ranging vertebrates” such as cougars and deer. They learned that light pollution could completely change how they hunt mule deer, their usual prey in the area.
Artificial lights caused the deer to roam more at night because they could see better, yet cougars still chose to hunt them in the darkest areas. More often, mountain lions would come closer to lights with more light pollution because the deer were coming closer. This could lead to dangerous encounters with humans.
Are Mountain Lions Dangerous?
Mountain lions are just as dangerous as you’d expect from a wild, giant animal. Yet, we do not often encounter these animals as they stay hidden and away from people.
Solitary creatures, mountain lions do not pose an inherent threat to humans as long as we stay away from them. If you came across a mountain lion, you would want to stand straight and still and make eye contact. Try to appear big and don’t back down. No sudden movements either, as they may take that as a threat.
Mountain lions don’t want to be bothered, so they should slink away should you come across one.
Are Mountain Lions the Same as Cougars?
Mountain lions go by many names, and one of those is cougar. The word “cougar” was adapted from a South American word and used to apply to mountain lions in North America.
Names for mountain lions include:
All of these refer to the same type of large cat. The name just changes by region.
Are Mountain Lions Endangered in Florida?
There is, in fact, a mountain lion local to Florida. This mountain lion is referred to as the Florida panther. Specifically, the Florida panther is classified as endangered, even though mountain lions as a whole are not.
Florida’s population continues to grow, limiting the Florida panther’s ability to find enough territory to own and hunt in. They live alone and cannot share space with other panthers, so they can get into fights and kill ones they meet and starve because there is no prey.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission presented data from 2021 that shows 21 separate Florida panthers were killed by vehicle collisions.
So, Are Mountain Lions Endangered?
Mountain lions are elusive predators that are hard to track down and study. They stay far away from populations of people and each other, which is part of the reason they continue to thrive. Since their leading cause of death is related to humanity, they should roam areas where we do no harm.
Mountain lions, or cougars, are not considered endangered in 2022. Hopefully, that continues to remain the case.
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