California Mountain Lions Counted Thousands Fewer Than Previously Thought in First Census

A recent study has provided the first comprehensive estimate of the current population of mountain lions in California, revealing that the total number is actually lower than previously believed by thousands.

According to The Los Angeles Times, state and university scientists have estimated that there are between 3,200 and 4,500 mountain lions in California. These estimates were based on population density modeling conducted using collected scat samples and GPS collar data. The data was collected from various wilderness areas in California, including the Mojave Desert and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

According to Justin Dellinger, a biologist specializing in large carnivores and leading the California Mountain Lion Project, the highest concentration of mountain lions can be found in the coastal forests of Humboldt and Mendocino counties in Northwest California. On the other hand, the lowest density is observed in the high desert east of the Sierra Nevada range in Inyo County. Dellinger also mentioned that there are no mountain lions in the Central Valley and certain parts of the Mojave Desert.

For decades, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife had estimated the state’s mountain lion population to be around 6,000. However, Dellinger now claims that this old figure was merely a rough estimate with limited supporting data. The newer estimate, which Dellinger considers to be more accurate, will be used to effectively conserve and manage the mountain lion population in California.

A team consisting of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the University of California, nonprofits like the Institute for Wildlife Studies, and other individuals embarked on a collective mission to obtain a more precise estimation of California’s mountain lion population. Their extensive efforts involved trekking across mountains, forests, and deserts to gather crucial data points, as reported by the LA Times. Utilizing trail cameras and traps, they diligently captured images and samples of tranquilized mountain lions in order to achieve this goal.


According to Dellinger, the group utilized approximately $2.75 million in state funding to obtain three population estimates. One estimate indicates a population number of around 4,500, while the other two suggest a number closer to 3,200. Biologists have been assigned the responsibility of reviewing the estimates to determine which one is the most accurate.

The biggest threat to California’s mountain lion population is undoubtedly human beings. These majestic creatures are constantly facing numerous challenges, including being struck by vehicles, falling victim to poaching, being displaced from their natural habitats due to urban development and freeway construction, and much more. It is clear that human activities have a significant impact on the survival and well-being of mountain lions in California.

According to the LA Times, scientists are expressing concerns about the mountain lions in California, even though they are not officially listed as endangered. They believe that these majestic creatures are caught in an “extinction vortex.” One theory suggests that there is a 25% probability of their extinction within the next 50 years, particularly in the Santa Monica and Santa Ana Mountains.

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