The big cats have received candidate status for the Endangered Species Act
The California Fish and Game Commission has voted to explore the candidacy of Southern California and Central Coast mountain lions for the state's Endangered Species Act.
In a 5-0 vote on April 15, the state Commission granted mountain lions in six regions from San Francisco to San Diego candidate status to be listed as threatened. State biologists will conduct a year-long scientific review of the big cats in the region. During that time, the region's mountain lions will receive protections of the Endangered Species Act. The vote came after a California Department of Fish and Wildlife finding concluding that the state's mountain lion population may require additional protections.
According to Mercury News, the vote came after a meeting where more than 40 people testified by phone. Commissioners agreed with a petition from environmental groups that mountain lion populations in those six regions has diminished significantly due to habitat loss from development, vehicle collisions and being shot under state permits by landowners .
Mountain lion populations north of the Golden Gate Bridge, in the Central Valley or Sierra Nevada, are not affected by the vote.
Of course, there are those who approve of the decision and those who oppose it.
Wildlife officials deserve a big round of applause for moving to protect these amazing animals, said Tiffany Yap, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental group that advocated for the vote.
But, Kirk Wilbur, vice president of the California Cattlemen's Associate, said he is dismayed by the decision. This is a largely political decision. There isn't sufficient science as far as we're aware to show that the petition is warranted.
Approximately 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions are estimated to live in California. But scientists estimate there are only 225 to 510 mountain lions in the six areas outlined by the vote, which have a limited range due to freeways and urban development. The cats are also facing a lack of genetic diversity due to dwindling numbers.
Environmental groups, the state Fish and Wildlife Department, and farming and ranching interests will likely battle in court before the final vote, which will be conducted after state biologists conduct the scientific review.