State officials on Wednesday concluded that several cougar clans in Central and Southern California may warrant listing as threatened under the state Endangered Species Act, a step that could potentially limit highway construction and development on thousands of acres of real estate.
Mountain lions are not a threatened species in California, but the determination submitted to the state Fish and Game Commission points out that six isolated and genetically distinct mountain lion populations from Santa Cruz to the U.S.-Mexico border make up a subpopulation that is threatened with extinction.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife reviewed the species’ status in response to a petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity and the nonprofit Mountain Lion Foundation, which argued that the populations constitute an “evolutionary significant unit” that should be listed as state endangered.
“California’s mountain lions are being poisoned by rodenticides, hit by cars and legally shot with depredation permits,” said J.P. Rose, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “As sprawl development has fragmented their habitat, inbreeding could wipe out isolated mountain lion populations if nothing is done.”
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