Erica Gies from KALW News recently interviewed Assistant Professor Chris Wilmers, whose research focuses on wildlife ecology and conservation. Wilmers' work with mountain lions and the Puma Project has examined the interactions these large mamals have with humans, and how the mountain lions adapt to survive within and around human development. In the KALW radio segment for Corsscurrents, Luring mountain lions to learn to live amongst them, Wilmers and California Deptartment of Fish & Game tracker Cliff Wiley discuss their work with mountain lions, and what can be done to protect this important member of the ecosystem from humans and development.
Researchers take blood samples and measurements to learn more about lion biology. And perhaps most importantly, they fit lions with tracking collars, providing critical data about what they do and where they go. For the most part, lions hunt and eat deer and avoid human areas.
WILMERS: An individual lion has a large home range. And it might be that they need to make use of multiple protected areas in their lives to hunt and do all the things that a lion needs to do to survive and reproduce. And so if there’s blockages between those protected areas, then they’re going to end up getting into trouble, going into developed areas.
Some solutions include creating wildlife overpasses, widening culverts on the roads, and building fences to funnel lions and other animals through these passages.
WILMERS: There’s something about having large carnivores which makes the landscape feel wild and feel natural. There are species that have always been here and throughout much of the world, we’ve pretty much eliminated all the large carnivores. So having them in our own backyards reminds us of what it’s like to actually have wild habitat.