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Mountain lions like their fast food in the forest

December 29, 2011 | 12:07 pm

Mountain LionIt's not hard to figure out why so many people eat at McDonald's and the like, despite the warnings that fast food isn't good for us. It's convenient, it's cheap and it's -- fast. So why should mountain lions think any differently?

They don't, which is why it's easy to see why a female cougar was repeatedly raiding the goats and sheep at a petting zoo in Oak Glen, apple-growing territory smack up near the San Bernardino National Forest. As a friend who lives in rural Modjeska Canyon in Orange County said of a neighbor, tying up your goats in the open at night is like ringing the mountain lion dinner bell. The 7-year-old cougar in Oak Glen was jumping into the pen to snag an easy meal; why go through all that hunting and gathering when the drive-by is so close?

As the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports, the owners of the petting zoo received a permit to shoot the lion, and did so. Ultimately, though, the real problem hasn't been solved. If livestock are going to be penned up at night, in the open, and unattended, that's practically like setting a trap for predators.

The family that owns the petting zoo isn't anti-wildlife by any means. They're used to living near wild cats, bears and coyotes, and expressed sadness about killing the cougar. But it takes more -- a barn for overnighting smaller livestock, large watchdogs -- to protect flocks and prevent clashes with animals that are simply acting within their nature in the vicinity of their natural habitat. Just as people in more urban environments shouldn't be putting dog food outdoors when it could attract coyotes, putting cougar bait near the predators' ranges encourages forays into dangerous conflicts with humans.


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--Karin Klein

Illustration by Dugald Stermer / For The Times

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