On April 16, 2020 the California Fish and Game Commission voted 5-0 to advance Southern California and
Central Coast mountain lions to candidacy under the state's Endangered Species Act. The vote follows a
February 2020 finding by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) that increased protections
may be warranted.
The vote triggers a year-long review by CDFW to determine if these populations should be formally protected under the Act. The Act's protections apply during the candidacy period.
"This is a historic moment for California's big cats and rich biodiversity,"
said Tiffany Yap, a biologist at the Center and primary author of the petition. "These ecosystem engineers face huge threats that could wipe out key populations. But with state protections, we can start reversing course to save our mountain lions. Wildlife officials deserve a big round of applause for moving to protect these amazing animals."
Genetic isolation due to roads and development threatens the health of the six puma populations included in the petition. Despite a more than thirty-year ban on sport-hunting, some mountain lion populations have low survival rates due to high levels of human-caused mortalities. Major threats include car strikes, poisonings and sanctioned depredation kills.
Researchers with the National Park Service, UC Davis and UCLA warn that if nothing is done to improve connectivity for these wide-ranging large carnivores, populations in the Santa Ana and Santa Monica mountains could go extinct within 50 years. And those in the Santa Cruz, San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains are showing similar patterns.
"We're grateful to the Department of Fish and Wildlife for their efforts and proud of the commission's leadership to protect California's mountain lions,"
said Debra Chase, CEO of the Mountain Lion Foundation. "By advancing these mountain lion populations to candidacy, they are helping to ensure that these iconic cats inspire future generations."
State protections under the Act will help address the many threats these lions face. Local authorities will need to coordinate with state wildlife experts to ensure that approved development projects account for mountain lion connectivity.
State agencies also will have a legal mandate to protect mountain lions. This could include building wildlife crossings over existing freeways; crossings have been shown to help maintain wildlife movement and reduce costly and dangerous wildlife-vehicle collisions.
State officials will also need to re-evaluate the use of deadly rat poisons in mountain lion habitat.
And the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will be able to develop and implement a mountain lion recovery plan to help facilitate coexistence with mountain lions.
UPDATE - On February 6, 2020 the California Department of Fish and Wildlife submitted their completed evaluation of the petition
to the California Fish and Game Commission stating: "...the Department has determined there is sufficient scientific
information available at this time to indicate the petitioned action may be warranted.
The Department recommends the Petition be accepted and considered."
This recommendation will be heard on the California Fish and Game Commission Consent Calendar as Item 7 on February 21, 2020.
The Staff Summary can be found here: Staff Summary Item 7
Our press release can be found here: Latest Press Release
Check back at mountainlion.org/CESA
for updates as the petition progresses.
On June 25, 2019 the Mountain Lion Foundation and the Center for Biological Diversity
formally petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission
to protect Southern and Central Coast mountain lions under the California Endangered Species Act.
You can read the story here in the
Los Angeles Times
Over the past year, the Mountain Lion Foundation has
heard from members across Southern California that their
worries for the survival of local mountain lions are mounting.
Your concerns were echoed in scientific research published in
and in March 2019
which showed the genetic isolation of Southern California's cougar populations and predicted
that if inbreeding depression occurs, the lions in the Santa Ana Mountains could go extinct
within 12 years and those in the Santa Monica Mountains within 15 years.
We know that other populations are hurting too, because of our
intense work within the community of Julian to slow lions being
killed in San Diego county.
So now we are taking the next essential step to protect mountain
lions throughout Southern California and up the Central Coast.
Tiffany Yap, a biologist at the Center for Biological Diversity
and primary author of the petition, put it this way."Our mountain
lions are dying horrible deaths from car collisions and rat poison,
and their populations are at risk from inbreeding too. Without a clear
legal mandate to protect mountain lions from the threats that are killing
them and hemming them in on all sides, these iconic wild cats will soon be
gone from Southern California.
Map of the Southern California/Central Coast ESU boundary. Derived from Gustafson et al. (2018). Genetics data source: Kyle Gustafson, PhD, Department of Biology and Environmental Health, Missouri Southern State University, and Holly Ernest, DVM, PhD, Department of Veterinary Sciences, Program in Ecology, University of Wyoming, Laramie. Roads data source: ESRI.
We are proud to partner with the Center as co-petitioners, and are glad to
have their help as we embark on a long journey (up to two years!) to list
the lion as threatened or endangered. We'll need your help too, writing
letters, signing petitions, and continuing your financial support of the
Foundation so that we can further this work.
Under the California Endangered Species Act, the California Department of
Fish and Wildlife has three months to make an initial recommendation to the
Fish and Game Commission, which will then take a first vote on the petition
at a public hearing later this year
The department is requesting an additional 30 days to return their report, and moves us to the February 2020 meeting for consideration of candidacy.
Please take a look at the petition
, which is an incredible summary of the
threats facing Southern California mountain lions. And return to visit our
landing page for the CESA campaign, which will be updated as we move through
the listing process.
Our deep thanks to our members for making this important work possible. If you aren't a member,
please join today and be part of this historic process.
The species is classified as a specially protected mammal. The mountain lion is the only species in California with this designation, and at this time there is no directive explaining how specially protected mammals should be conserved.
Under California Fish and Game Code Section 3950.1, which became law in 1990 through Proposition 117, the mountain lion "shall not be listed as, or considered to be, a game mammal by the department or the commission."
Laws pertaining to California's threatened and endangered species currently do not apply to the mountain lion because the species has not been listed. The mountain lion is also not included as a fully protected mammal, or nongame mammal in California.
California Endangered Species Law
as of June 2019
Fish and Game Code - FGC
DIVISION 3. FISH AND GAME GENERALLY [2000 - 2948]
CHAPTER 1.5. Endangered Species [2050 - 2089.26]
ARTICLE 1. General Provisions [2050 - 2068]
This chapter shall be known and may be cited as the California Endangered Species Act.
The Legislature hereby finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Certain species of fish, wildlife, and plants have been rendered extinct as a consequence of man’s activities, untempered by adequate concern and conservation.
(b) Other species of fish, wildlife, and plants are in danger of, or threatened with, extinction because their habitats are threatened with destruction, adverse modification, or severe curtailment, or because of overexploitation, disease, predation, or other factors.
(c) These species of fish, wildlife, and plants are of ecological, educational, historical, recreational, esthetic, economic, and scientific value to the people of this state, and the conservation, protection, and enhancement of these species and their habitat is of statewide concern.
The Legislature further finds and declares that it is the policy of the state to conserve, protect, restore, and enhance any endangered species or any threatened species and its habitat and that it is the intent of the Legislature, consistent with conserving the species, to acquire lands for habitat for these species.
The Legislature further finds and declares that if any provision of this chapter requires a person to provide mitigation measures or alternatives to address a particular impact on a candidate species, threatened species, or endangered species, the measures or alternatives required shall be roughly proportional in extent to any impact on those species that is caused by that person. Where various measures or alternatives are available to meet this obligation, the measures or alternatives required shall maintain the person’s objectives to the greatest extent possible consistent with this section. All required measures or alternatives shall be capable of successful implementation. This section governs the full extent of mitigation measures or alternatives that may be imposed on a person pursuant to this chapter. This section shall not affect the state’s obligations set forth in Section 2052.
(a) The Legislature further finds and declares that it is the policy of the state that public agencies should not approve projects as proposed which would jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of habitat essential to the continued existence of those species, if there are reasonable and prudent alternatives available consistent with conserving the species or its habitat which would prevent jeopardy.
(b) Furthermore, it is the policy of this state and the intent of the Legislature that reasonable and prudent alternatives shall be developed by the department, together with the project proponent and the state lead agency, consistent with conserving the species, while at the same time maintaining the project purpose to the greatest extent possible.
The Legislature further finds and declares that, in the event specific economic, social, or other conditions make infeasible such alternatives, individual projects may be approved if appropriate mitigation and enhancement measures are provided.
The Legislature further finds and declares that it is the policy of this state that all state agencies, boards, and commissions shall seek to conserve endangered species and threatened species and shall utilize their authority in furtherance of the purposes of this chapter.
The Legislature further finds and declares that the cooperation of the owners of land which is identified as habitat for endangered species and threatened species is essential for the conservation of those species and that it is the policy of this state to foster and encourage that cooperation in furtherance of the purposes of this chapter. Therefore, a landowner of property on which an endangered, threatened, or candidate species lives shall not be liable for civil damages for injury to employees of, or persons under contract with, the department if the injury occurs while those persons are conducting survey, management, or recovery efforts with respect to those species.
The definitions in this article govern the construction of this chapter.
“Conserve,” “conserving,” and “conservation” mean to use, and the use of, all methods and procedures which are necessary to bring any endangered species or threatened species to the point at which the measures provided pursuant to this chapter are no longer necessary. These methods and procedures include, but are not limited to, all activities associated with scientific resources management, such as research, census, law enforcement, habitat acquisition, restoration and maintenance, propagation, live trapping, and transplantation, and, in the extraordinary case where population pressures within a given ecosystem cannot be otherwise relieved, may include regulated taking.
“Endangered species” means a native species or subspecies of a bird, mammal, fish, amphibian, reptile, or plant which is in serious danger of becoming extinct throughout all, or a significant portion, of its range due to one or more causes, including loss of habitat, change in habitat, overexploitation, predation, competition, or disease. Any species determined by the commission as “endangered” on or before January 1, 1985, is an “endangered species.”
“Feasible” means feasible as defined in Section 21061.1 of the Public Resources Code.
“Project” means project as defined in Section 21065 of the Public Resources Code.
“Recover” and “recovery” mean to improve, and improvement in, the status of a species to the point at which listing is no longer appropriate under the criteria set out in this chapter and any regulations adopted thereunder, and, if the department has approved a recovery plan, satisfaction of the conditions of that plan.
“State lead agency” means the state agency, board, or commission which is a lead agency under the California Environmental Quality Act (Division 13 (commencing with Sec. 21000) of the Public Resources Code).
“Threatened species” means a native species or subspecies of a bird, mammal, fish, amphibian, reptile, or plant that, although not presently threatened with extinction, is likely to become an endangered species in the foreseeable future in the absence of the special protection and management efforts required by this chapter. Any animal determined by the commission as “rare” on or before January 1, 1985, is a “threatened species.”
“Candidate species” means a native species or subspecies of a bird, mammal, fish, amphibian, reptile, or plant that the commission has formally noticed as being under review by the department for addition to either the list of endangered species or the list of threatened species, or a species for which the commission has published a notice of proposed regulation to add the species to either list.
CESA Petition Notices and Documents
August 7-8, 2019 - Sacramento, CA
December 11-12, 2019 - Sacramento, CA
Watch members of the public give their comments to the Commission on our
CESA Petition Timeline
The California Department of Fish & Wildlife's CESA Listing Process web page
provides a detailed explanation of the steps the petition goes through and addresses timing. The petition to list California mountain lions will be part of a long process, extending
at just short of two years, if no delays occur.
In addition to CDFW's website, the Foundation has made our internal timeline available to the public.
The department is requesting an additional 30 days to return their report, and moves us to the February 2020 meeting for consideration of candidacy.
CESA Petition in the News
- California's mighty predator - the mountain lion - faces 'extinction vortex', LA Times, 2019-06-25
- California's mighty predator - the mountain lion - faces 'extinction vortex', The Morning Call, 2019-06-25
- Two groups file for protected status to save isolated mountain lions in Santa Monica, Santa Ana mountains, Daily Bulletin, 2019-06-25
- Two groups file for protected status to save isolated mountain lions in Santa Monica, Santa Ana mountains, Los Angeles Daily News, 2019-06-25
- Mountain lions on Central Coast will disappear 'within our lifetime,' groups warn, San Luis Obispo Tribune, 2019-06-25
- California's mighty predator - the mountain lion - faces 'extinction vortex', San Diego Union Tribune, 2019-06-25
- Environmentalists Want to Declare Mountain Lions an Endangered Species, Los Angeles Magazine, 2019-06-25
- Environmentalists Want to Declare Mountain Lions an Endangered Species, KTLA 5, 2019-06-25
- Animal activists petition to have SoCal mountain lions protected, FOX 5, 2019-06-25
- Animal Activists Want Mountain Lions Protected, NBC Los Angeles, 2019-06-25
- Endangered Species Protection Sought for SoCal Mountain Lions, Patch Calabasas, 2019-06-25
- State Endangered Species Protections Sought for Mountain Lions in Southern California, Central Coast, Center for Biological Diversity, 2019-06-25
- California Asked to List Mountain Lions as Endangered, Courthouse News Service, 2019-06-25
- State Endangered Species Protections Sought for Southland Mountain Lions, NBC Palm Springs, 2019-06-25
- California Asked to List Mountain Lions as Endangered, SCV News, 2019-06-26
- Wildlife Groups Seek Endangered Status For California Mountain Lions, Huff Post, 2019-06-28
- California's mighty predator - the mountain lion - faces 'extinction vortex', MSN (Microsoft) News, 2019-06-28
- Petition filed to Protect Mountain Lions, Big Bear Valley News Grizzly, 2019-07-02
- Mountain Lions on the Brink of Extinction?, Thousand Oaks Acorn, 2019-07-03
- California needs Housing, but not in mountain lion country?, LA Times Editorial Board, 2019-07-07
- Legal Ledger Briefs: CA mountain lion protection sought, Western Livestock Journal, 2019-07-11
- Commentary: Why Southern California's imperiled mountain lions need new protections, The San Diego Tribune, 2019-07-18
- Editorial, Mountain Lions "Geographically Extinct"?, Western Outdoor News, 2019-08-01
- Are Mountain Lions Endangered?, Idyllwild Town Crier, 2019-08-16
- Opinion: California Must Act to Protect its Endangered Mountain Lions, Times of San Diego, 2019-10-22
- Letter: Supervisors are misinformed about endangered mountain lions, Sun Gazette, 2019-11-27
Podcasts & Radio
- The Argument for Giving California's Struggling Mountain Lions Endangered Species Protection, KQED, 2019-06-26
- Should Coastal and Southern California Mountain Lions Be Listed As Endangered? Animal Activists Say Yes, Capital Public Radio, 2019-06-26
- Extinction Vortex with Tiffany Yap, Our Wild World, 2019-07-15
- Mountain Lions, from your LA backyard to extinction?, KCRW, 2019-08-26
- Hear Our Interview: Wildlife Biologist Renee Owens on Efforts to Save Mountain Lions, East County Magazine, 2019-11-30