We recently welcomed back our colleague Paige Munson from a leave in which she traversed much of the Pacific Crest Trail, skipping only those areas that were experiencing wildfires and adapting to the unexpected throughout the long trek. She shared this recollection:
I spent five months this year backpacking sections of the Pacific Crest Trail, a trail that runs from the California-Mexico border north through California, then Oregon, and ends at the Washington-Canada border. Nearly all of this journey was through mountain lion habitat, desert scrub, oak woodlands, alpine mountain ranges, and thick forests. Not only does this trail traverse diverse habitats but also diverse land uses. I spent days walking through recreational forests, pastureland, timber forests, next to homes, along Southern California’s aqueduct, and through wind farms. Along this journey I never saw the elusive mountain lion, though they also crossed the roads I did and slept through the same nights in the wilderness.
After about 100 miles of backpacking on the Pacific Crest Trail, I hiked into the small town of Warner Springs, California. We had spent our morning hiking through pastureland and past Eagle Rock, on the ancestral lands of the Cupeño people. My partner and I left our packs outside of the community center, eager for a snack and a cold drink. Upon walking into the small building. I was greeted by a kind man offering us sodas and chips, and a place to charge our devices.
Mounted on the wall, I saw large photographic images of mountain lions with blurbs about their habitat and behavior, as well as brochures for staying safe with mountain lions and cards with phone numbers to call for assistance. I turned back to the man and told him I worked with the Mountain Lion Foundation and asked how people in the community were doing with lions in their midst. He enthusiastically told me about regular lion sightings, and that there were abundant deer to support the lions. As for the people, he felt the community knew how to live with lions; the mountain lions were a part of living in Warner Springs.
The Mountain Lion Foundation has been lucky to have incredibly active volunteers such as Robin Parks and Jane Santorum in San Diego County, who aid with wildlife conflict and educate communities about best practices for living with mountain lions. The years of work that has been poured into helping both people and lions have helped create communities happy to share their homes with wildlife. I left the community center to head back to the trail, grateful to be a part of a team dedicated to saving lions and helping the people who live with them.
If you want to join the Mountain Lion Foundation team, fill in our volunteer interest form.