Two male mountain lions died of starvation after California Fish and Wildlife officials moved them from their natural habitat in the eastern Sierra Nevada to the Mojave Desert, hundreds of miles away.
According to a recently released Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Recovery Program report, the big cats, L147 and L176, attempted to make the long trek back to their home, and their mates, but the journey proved to be fatal, with one cat dying along the way, and the other being found gaunt and near death, too emaciated to be saved.
The cats were transplanted to the Mojave Desert after a mountain lion attack on Bighorn Sheep. Tom Stephenson, a senior environmental scientist at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, has since admitted that the decision to relocate the lions was a mistake:
“In hindsight, it wasn’t a good place to release those lions. And we’re not moving them to that environment anymore.”
The report indicates that the decision to move the mountain lions lacked critical considerations:
‘More important and practical factors which should influence mountain lion behavior, such as prey availability and habitat familiarity, received less consideration,’
Public comments about the government’s failed experiment have been justifiably harsh.
“They were removed from their habitat for what? Lions can’t survive in the desert. This is animal cruelty. Where is the outrage.”
“I am sick, crying, thinking about the cruelty, and the painful deaths experienced by these living creatures, just trying to go home to their families and homes. Think about the pain of starving to death…”
Questioning how the act was not criminal:
If you transport and animal to an unfamiliar environment and let it starve to death, you would go to jail. If a state wildlife official does it, they just put their hand up and say my bad.
According to the report, further relocation of male mountain lions will be discontinued.
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