There's an amazing variety of wildlife that calls the Cosumnes River Preserve their home! Many people are surprised to learn that the area is home to coyotes, beavers and bobcats, minks, weasels, black-tailed deer, grey foxes, river otters, badgers and that there's plenty of space and resources to provide safe haven for a mountain lion.
To date, it doesn't appear that there is a resident mountain lion on the Preserve, but in recent years there have been sightings by reliable sources, tracks and several years ago a young lion was killed trying to cross Highway 99 trying to get to the Preserve. We know they come around and check out the area for suitable new digs.
Young mountain lions use riparian corridors along rivers to disperse and find their own territory. Rivers are nature's 'roadways,' logical paths for large cats who are trying to avoid humans, stay safe and find food. Deer also use these riparian corridors and since they're some of the mountain lion's favorite food, it's a win-win for lions to stay close to the river.
Unfortunately, lions looking for food may stray to agricultural areas in the Valley where small livestock is kept and, being very hungry, lions can get into trouble for taking livestock or for being accused of taking livestock. It can't be emphasized enough that the favorite prey of mountain lions is deer!
The Cosumnes River Preserve is an island for all the native wildlife that a Valley ecosystem supports. That's why it's so important to be able to document the presence of even one of these feline travelers passing through. As apex predators, lions contribute so much to keeping habitats balanced and healthy.
While we are still hoping to capture a trail camera image of the lion who was seen last week, we know that the Preserve is large and the lion is smart - he or she could be anywhere! Once the lion has travelled down the Cosumnes River corridor from the Sierra and comes upon the large oak forest and savannah areas of the Preserve, he or she will remain largely undetected in the remote areas, trying to figure out if this will be territory or just a stop over.
We also know that there are a lot of deer on the Preserve and that means good eating for a lion. But lions are opportunists and will hunt beaver, rabbits and other animals they come across. So whether this cat has come from the Sierra Nevada to the east or from the Coast ranges to the west - it may be that the remote oak woodlands, the deer and the opportunity to rest may hold some appeal, whether or not he chooses to stay and become a resident lion.
Our cameras regularly pick up deer as well as coyotes, raccoons, skunks, opossum and rabbits, all fair game for a lion on the move.
Paws crossed we soon see this lion walking past one of our cameras!
--- The Bureau of Land Management initiated a mountain lion study on the Cosumnes River Preserve in collaboration with the California Department Fish and Wildlife in 2014. Currently, the study is being carried out by an all-volunteer crew of dedicated individuals who receive support and oversight from the Bureau of Land Management. The Sacramento Zoo has awarded a grant to the Mountain Lion Foundation which has allowed the Foundation to purchase and loan ten trail cameras to the Preserve to help carry out this study. The goal is to find and document a mountain lion on the Cosumnes River Preserve.