SANTA MONICA— The stay-at-home orders implemented since mid-March have proven to benefit California’s mountain lion population. On Thursday, June 25, the UC Davis Road Ecology Center reported that lighter traffic resulted in a 58% reduction in the state’s lion roadkill.
California, Idaho, and Maine were examined in the study. California, the Santa Ana and Santa Monica mountains in particular, saw significant decreases in large wildlife killed by vehicles. The reduced traffic has also caused a decrease in vehicle crashes and greenhouse gas emissions.
In the Santa Monica Mountains, there is an estimated adult population of five females and one male. Two male lions of this population were killed trying to cross the 101 and 405 within the past eight months. In the Santa Ana Mountains, there is an estimated adult population of eleven females and five males. At least four lions of the Santa Ana Mountains have been killed trying to cross Interstate 15 since 2015.
Mountain lions are not an endangered species statewide or worldwide, but there is a risk of the extinction of local populations because of vehicle-related deaths and inbreeding.
“For Southern California mountain lions, even one lion making it across a road instead of being killed can be very significant for populations like the ones in the Santa Monica or Santa Ana mountain ranges,” said Winston Vickers, director of the California Mountain Lion Project at UC Davis.
About 75 to 100 mountain lions are reportedly killed by vehicles in California every year. However, that number may be higher because many deaths go unreported.
UC Davis’ report estimates that of California’s large wildlife (deer, moose, elk, black bears, coyotes, and lions), the lives of 5,700 could be spared within the course of a year.