A new Husker-led study on mountain lion survival and mortality in California was featured March 21 in the Los Angeles Times.
Co-authored by John Benson, associate professor in the School of Natural Resources, and Kyle Dougherty, a doctoral student in the school, the study shows that the average California mountain lion is more likely to die at the hands of a human than of natural causes but that the cats may face less risk from humans in counties where voters supported “pro-environment” ballot measures.
Benson and colleagues compiled election results for California propositions related to environmental issues such as watershed conservation, greenhouse gas emissions, plastic grocery bags and a bond measure for parks and other projects. They found that regional support for such initiatives were a better predictor of mountain lion survival than the density of goat and sheep farms, where the carnivores are more likely to enter into conflict with humans.
“We definitely understand that voting records on environmental issues don’t fully capture the complex views that people have about large carnivores, or their tolerance of them,” Benson said. He hopes ecologists and social scientists will be encouraged to investigate more directly how human attitudes and perceptions affect the survival of large carnivores.
The Times story was picked up by the San Diego Union-Tribune and Yahoo! News. A similar story appeared on Earth.com.
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