A mountain lion sighting near Fresno, California was confirmed via tracks by the California’s Department of Fish and Game on May 10, 2012. Although there are a few homes bordering this semi-rural area near Woodward Park, it is largely agricultural land, park land, and natural riverine habitat.The San Joaquin River Conservancy is working in the same general area to purchase a 22 mile regional greenspace and wildlife corridor along both sides of the river from Friant Dam to Highway 99. If their work is successful, we should expect to see more lions along the river in the near future.
The San Joaquin River forms a natural corridor for mountain lions from the foothills of the Sierra across the valley to the California’s Coast Range. This is true of other valley river systems as well: the American, Cosumnes, Tuolumne, and Sacramento, just to name a few.
Before European settlement, valley grasslands would have been prime hunting ground for mountain lions. Deer foraged there, as well as Tule Elk and many smaller prey species. Now the great central valley grasslands have largely given way to agriculture and suburban development, and are trisected by North-South freeways 99 and Interstate 5, and cougar sightings are few.
Of the big cat’s presence along the river, Lt. Tony Spada of the California Department of Fish and Game said that “To find these pawprints just signifies that we have a healthy ecosystem.”