Mountain lions face greater risk of becoming roadkill in wildfire’s aftermath, study says
The risk to humans when a wildfire burns through a mountain lion’s range is “substantial,” a new study says, meaning the predator faces a greater risk of becoming roadkill in the wake of a fire.
But mountain lions are more likely to perish during and after a blaze, which puts them at increased risk of becoming roadkill themselves, according to a new study. “This is a serious threat to our human communities…
The Mountain Lion Study
In 2014, a study found that mountain lions in the U.S. were at greater risk of becoming roadkill in the aftermath of wildfires. The researchers determined that they had a greater chance of being hit by vehicles during and after a fire.
The study, published in the journal Conservation Biology, compared the number of mountain lions along a 2200-mile section of the Pacific Northwest that remained uninhabited in the wake of a wildfire (when animals were present) to the number that became roadkill (when animals were not present). The researchers looked at wildfires that occurred from 1995 to 2013.
They used fire management tools such as fire watches, prescribed burns and the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) to track wildfires. They compared the risk of being hit by a vehicle to the risk of being killed by a wildfire over the entire 2200-mile area, taking into account factors like whether a mountain lion died in the fire or whether they survived.
The study found that the number of mountain lions that died in the fire was “small” compared to the risk faced during a fire because deaths do not appear to be evenly distributed.
“I think we can say from the numbers that the chance of a mountain lion to be killed by a wildfire is substantial, if not very high,” said lead study author Jason Sheehy of the University of Nevada, Reno. “If you add the number of mountain lions that died due to predation by another species, then the potential of being struck by a vehicle is relatively high.”
Sheehy said their estimate of the risk factor likely underestimates the true risk because of the limitations of their study. The study does not account for mountain lions