A recent article in the SFGate leads with the headline: Study finds mountain lions are feasting on house pets. The article shows an image of a mountain lion isolated on a dark black background. The article begins “A pet owner’s nightmare, their dog or cat being eaten by a mountain lion, appears to happen with some frequency, according to a new report from the Department of Fish and Wildlife.”
The SFGate article goes on to discuss the Report to the Fish and Game Commission Regarding Findings of Necropsies on Mountain Lions Taken Under Depredation Permits in 2015.
The report detailed that 107 mountain lions were killed last year legally under provisions of special depredation permits. Of those 107 lions, the stomach contents of 83 were analyzed, and 52 percent were found to have eaten cats, dogs or other domestic animals, the report said. Only 5 percent had eaten deer, which are supposed to be their favorite prey, but are harder to catch than house cats. Of the rest of the lions detailed in the report, 16 percent were not studied, 9 percent had empty stomachs, and 18 percent had contents that were too digested to be identified.
The article then takes the liberty to sensationalize further…
If pets also accounted for a good share of that 18 percent, that would mean more than 60 percent of the lions in the study ate cats, dogs and other domestic animals.
If….if pets also accounted for… that isn’t how data is interpreted.
This article leads with click bait style headings and writing. Preying on pet owner’s fear that their own beloved pet will be eaten by a mountain lion, and then implying that this happens with some frequency. This article plays upon a misinterpretation of the mountain lion data to instill fear and maligns the mountain lion.
Shedding Some Light On the Mountain Lion Data
The SFGate article leads the reader to believe that the 107 mountain lions killed on depredation permits are representative of the entire mountain lion population in California. There are an estimated 5,000 of the big cats in the state of California therefore approximately 1% of all mountain lions in the state were found to have domestic pets in their stomachs, not 52%.
It is also important to note that the 107 mountain lions killed on depredation permits were in fact killed because they were targeted as the cat that ate pets or livestock. Therefore it stands to reason these mountain lions targeted to be killed would be more likely to have domestic animals in their stomachs.
The article should have highlighted the fact that 14% of the mountain lions taken with depredation permits were killed for no reason because 5% had deer in their stomachs and 9% had empty stomachs. This shows that they targeted and killed the wrong cat, if indeed a lion was the culprit in the first place.
The article mentions that the Department of Fish and Wildlife has confirmed that coyotes and other predators attack and eat pets at high levels. Yet, the cat takes the rap.