Mountain lions face greater risk of becoming roadkill in wildfire’s aftermath, study says
A new study shows mountain lions are facing greater risk of becoming roadkill in wildfires in the wake of a blaze in Washington State.
The study, published in the American Journal of Primatology, looked at four areas of the Pacific Northwest where wildfires have burned since 2010.
The fires have burned nearly 60,000 hectares and killed nine people.
While scientists have said that the number of mountain lions killed is a “very small number”, the report said there is a strong risk mountain lions will become roadkill during the recovery process.
“We think more work needs to be done to understand the process of the lion being roadkill, and how that relates to this (fire) event and other fires that will occur in the future,” study author Anthony J. Tolan, a primatologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, said.
Tolan said the risk of mountain lions becoming roadkill is higher at higher elevations.
“We’ve had very hot and dry conditions for many years in Washington, and (the fires) were happening above the tree line, which makes it harder for the (lion) to survive in areas with higher elevations where fire is less likely to happen,” he said.
“They certainly live in the fire service area, where there’s little or no chance of (fire) happening.”
The researchers looked at two factors that can help a lion survive in the aftermath of fire.
“One is body temperature,” he said.
“Theoretically, a lion in a fire at a certain temperature, and one that’s hotter than a lion in a cold fire, should be able to survive the fire,” he said.
“The second factor is the amount of resources they have available.”
“Lions probably have a lot of body fat,” he said.
“They have a lot of fuel, they can carry their own body weight in food, so they’re always going to have a large amount of energy