California Wildfires: An Annual Disaster For Mountain Lions

The sky has been taken over by a demon in California.
The menacing, crimson-red grin tearing apart the once
bright, pale leaves on the trees. The grass perishes into
ashes never to be seen again. A limping mountain lion
and two ash-covered cubs dart around the gushing
flames and onto the highway. Before they know it, their
bodies touch the metal frame of the car and slowly fall
onto the tar road heading to heaven.

Captain Cal is a 4-pound California mountain
lion cub taken by Oakland Zoo under captivity
and treatment to cure the wildfire burns and
grow into a healthy, living animal. Captain Cal’s
mother was burned to death in the Zogg Fire.

What causes these threatening wildfires?

Over 4 million acres of land in California has been burned down into smithereens this year, breaking the record of 2 million acres burnt in 2018. The temperatures and the wind speed skyrocket, encouraging the wildfire to unleash its worst potential. That is only one of the reasons. Scientists say that California’s changing climate is the #1 reason why there are so many fires, unlike other states. According to Park Williams, a bio-climatologist, “As long the stuff is dry, and there is a spark, then that stuff will burn.”Secondly, people are another cause of wildfires. For instance, at a gender reveal party, a fire ignited by fireworks burned thousands of acres. Firefighters only contained 16% of the El Dorado (the fire’s name). Every fall, an air current called Santa Ana Winds brings dry air from the Great Basin in the Sierra Nevada to California. The air stretches across the mountains and gets pressurized and warm becoming less moist. The gust speed is about 40-60 miles per hour benefiting California wildfires. Overall, the wildfires are generated by many factors but there are some that we can prevent such as fireworks.

Wildfire impact on mountain lions

The mountain lions are already facing habitat destruction from builders cutting down trees to create stores. Because of this, cougars have less territory and may also inbreed. In other words, when mountain lions have habitat loss, their region shrinks, and the father may even mate with his
child. Since the fire had burned at least 26,000 acres of their habitat, their habitat shrunk even more. When wildfires come in the puma’s territory, they tend to move away from the fires and lurk somewhere else, such as farms with livestock to eat. After they move back into the area where
the fire was, the cougars would burn their paws and starve to death because they can’t hunt with their retractable claws. According to a study, wildfires can create deer grazing areas which can increase deer population, but it is a problem for cougars. The mountain lion’s main diet is hunting
deer although they like a dense forest to hunt in and their prey is not in plain sight. The increase in wildfires poses a threat to the mountain lion’s environment.

Importance of mountain lions

Mountain lions are known as an “umbrella species,” meaning that saving their habitat will save other organisms habitats as well. They stabilize the herbivore’s population such as deer. If there were no mountain lions, deers would over-graze and not let the plants grow back. The cougars play an indirect role in the California ecosystem showing what the cost would be if there were none. Mountain lions also compete with other carnivores such as coyotes and bears so they balance their preys population.

California Fires 2020

Mountain lion habitat range in California

The habitat for mountain lions range from the North of California to South California which is a dense forest and mountainous terrain. The cougar’s natural environment is the same as the wildfire’s causing the puma’s habitat to shrink. In the two maps above, there are four different wildfires in the circle of the cougar’s habitat. Most of the fire has been contained although the trees were burned.

Twin mountain lion cubs rescued from the Zogg fire; their mom died in the fire. The Oakland Zoo are planning to introduce them to Captain Cal.

Citations: Credit goes to Oakland Zoo for Captain Cal and the twins. Props to them!

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