The Mountain Lion Kills a Doe

Mountain lions are eating California wild donkeys. Why scientists say this is a good thing

When I read the news about the mountain lion killing the doe at a feed site on California’s Big Sur coast, I remember my initial reaction: I was happy for California’s iconic animal. When the details of the attack became available, though, I was less happy.

The National Park Service had been following the doe’s movements, and she was doing fine. So the park sent out a tracking dart to track her movements. The dart’s signal returned to the agency six days later, on July 8, indicating that the feed site had been visited by the mountain lion. The next day, it was reported that the mountain lion had killed the doe. The report also said the mountain lion’s death was due in large part to her failing to resist the attack.

According to the San Luis Obispo Daily Press, the dead animal was female, measuring 9 feet long, with an estimated weight of 1,750 pounds. The agency says that female mountain lions can weigh as much as 3,000 pounds. So the average female mountain lion in California must be at least 1,750, or 3-foot-9.

That’s an impressive animal. I thought so, too, when I first read about it.

But then I realized that a female mountain lion that big is actually a very healthy animal. Mountain lions are quite small, with only about 7-8 inches (17-20 centimeters) of leg and shoulder muscle mass. They are also very thin, with little fat on their bodies, and don’t have much muscle mass. They have relatively little bone and are generally no bigger than an average adult sized dog or cat.

But with a body weight of about 1,500 pounds (600 kilograms), a female mountain lion’s body mass exceeds that of a lioness. This means that she can get up, stand on two legs, and actually lift her head and neck to look around. She is not likely to run or jump like a lion. She is probably less agile than a lioness in other ways, too. But these are features of healthy mountain lions. And they are the very characteristics

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