Mountain lions face greater risk of becoming roadkill in wildfire’s aftermath, study says
Mountain lions face greater risk of become roadkill in wildfire’s aftermath, study says
(Photo: John Goss, The Colorado Independent)
In the wild, mountain lions are often preyed on by coyotes, bears and other carnivores. Many of those predators don’t prey on mountain lions, only on other species that eat their prey. When it comes to mountain lions, though, coyotes are the dominant force.
That has happened again and again in the years after wildfires. Coyote carcasses, found along the roadsides of the West, are the most common animals associated with the flames.
But a new study, appearing this week in the Journal of Mammology, finds that the death of coyotes has actually increased during the years after fires in both the U.S. and Canada. The findings are significant because coyotes are a keystone species that often keep deer populations in check. The death of the coyotes has made it a potentially dangerous time for the mountain lions.
“The number of coyotes killed in or around fire areas, that have been identified in western Colorado and the U.S., have gone up significantly since the  fire,” said James Hutton, a professor at U-M’s School of Environment in the Department of Natural Resources. “We’re seeing the exact opposite of what we saw in 2002.”
The 2002 fire burned more than 12,000 acres of land in the Black Forest and Pueblo County, Colorado. The new study tracked how many mountain lions were killed around the fires on the U.S. and Canadian sides of the Continental Divide in Colorado and Wyoming for the years 2001, 2002 and 2003, when nearly 1,650 square miles burned. Hutton said he hopes his findings can lead to more fire prevention efforts to protect more mountain lions.
Hutton said the problem