Update: 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4: UC Santa
Cruz’s Pumas Project field biologist Chris Fust said today
determining the cause of death of a young mountain lion found on Old
Ranch Road in the Los Gatos Mountains will be difficult since the animal
was too far decayed.
Looking at the peripheral facts of its death, however, Fust said the puma likely died of natural causes.
The cat was young, about
one year old, and was therefore still dependent on its mother to hunt, Fust noted.
mother died then so, too, would the kitten," he said.
Likewise other natural
diseases such as pneumonia may have been a contributing factor to the
kitten's death, he added.
"I believe the take away from such events as this is
how close pumas live and interact in our community. We are all connected
and just because people have built neighborhoods in the woods does not
mean that they are isolated from wild animals and their natural cycles," he said.
Los Gatos Mountain resident Lauri J. Vaughan found a dead mountain lion Sunday Dec. 1 under the deck of her Old Ranch Road home.
The young lion was first spotted by her 17-year-old son who discovered it around midday Sunday and called her to figure out what to do to remove the carcass, Vaughan said.
She contacted Native Animal Rescue, whose officials weren’t interested since the lion was dead, she said.
She then emailed several agencies, including the UC Santa Cruz’s Pumas Project website.
Within an hour, she received a response from
its director and later that evening a graduate student
called her to arrange removal of the animal Monday morning, she explained.
Vaughan said the carcass was retrieved in coordination with officials from the California Department of Fish and Game.
Santa Cruz Pumas' representative Chris Fust came to her property, off Hutchinson Road, and put the animal's body in a bag and told her it’s illegal to own any part of a puma in California and possession can result in a $2,000 fine.
Vaughan said it's not clear why the lion died.
Fust told Vaughan there were no obvious signs of either an attack by another lion, or bullets, or road burn, evidence of it being struck by a car.
The only possible conclusions as to what killed the animal are either starvation, disease or possible poison, she said.
However, since the animal was young, Fust said it’s not uncommon for yearlings to die of starvation if they haven’t learned to hunt effectively.
Vaughan said her husband and son saw lions separately on Old Ranch Road from their property
each once this year.
Two years ago, they saw two cats together with a kill
on Old Ranch Road.
Her neighbors have told Vaughan they’ve seen lions nearby as well this
Neighbors also report tracks and scat fairly frequently, she said.
Fust said the Pumas Project tracks one lion that travels in the area
where she lives and that the animal she found was not wearing a tracking collar.
Fust told Vaughan he would contact her when and if a cause of death was determined, but that it could be several weeks.