Mountain Lions 'Go West' from Nevada into California

October 5, 2012

An article published in the Reno Gazette relays curious findings about America's largest cat: the mountain lion. A seven-year long study conducted by WCS, the University of Nevada, and the Nevada Department of Wildlife reveals that many of the big cats living in Nevada's Great Basin Desert are westward bound.

The American West has always held a certain allure. Its rugged terrain has captivated our collective imagination for centuries, with Horace Greeley's oft-quoted mantra "Go West, young man" sending adventurous souls towards the Pacific. A new study on mountain lions, conducted in part by WCS, shows that our country's biggest feline predators are doing the same.

For nearly a decade, biologists collected data from nearly 800 individual predators to better understand genetic information and movement patterns. They expected to see mountain lions moving from California into Nevada--where legal hunting leads to vacated territories--but they discovered that a number of big cats are instead venturing towards California, where it's thought that lush terrain offers better living conditions and more abundant prey.

Speaking about these findings, WCS co-researcher Jon Beckmann said, “It gives us a better picture of how lions are moving on the landscape. We predicted we would have more lions coming in from California. We were surprised the Sierra itself was a net importer.”
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