BONUS CONTENT: the Mountain Lion Project, including news of P4 ‘s capture was featured during the 6pm broadcast on ABC7News (KGO Bay Area) Thursday 2/24! WATCH NOW:

February 24, 2017–Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, CA – Conservation biologists from Audubon Canyon Ranch (ACR), a regional leader in conservation science and education, announced their capture of a fourth female mountain lion in four months. The latest big cat, named P4 for research purposes, is an adult female estimated to be 5-6 years old and weighing in at 83 pounds. The mountain lion was captured and fitted with a GPS satellite collar in the early morning hours of February 20 on private property in the rugged hills east of Highway 12 between the Bouverie Preserve and the town of Sonoma.

The mountain lion was in good condition with no signs of any injuries. “We saw no evidence of any offspring or companions nearby, and she showed no signs of being pregnant or lactating,” noted Dr. Quinton Martins, ACR’s lead researcher on the project. The capture, led by Dr. Martins, was attended by California Department of Fish and Wildlife veterinarian Dr. Deana Clifford and ACR research team Jeanne Wirka, Alex Hettena and Virginia Fifield.

“After securing permission from the landowners, our team set two traps in the afternoon, and monitored them constantly all night. Due to inclement weather, extra precautions were taken for monitoring the cages - three different types of trap monitors were used: satellite, VHF and cellular,” Martins said. “P4 arrived at the traps for the first time before 7:00 p.m., and was clearly very keen to get at the bait, but very wary of going into the trap. The cold, rainy weather could possibly have added to her interest in a ‘free’ meal.” With the team stationed nearby but remotely monitoring the cages for nearly 7 hours, P4 finally went into the cage at 1:44 a.m. and proceeded to calmly consume the much desired deer bait until the team was ready to safely handle her. She was fitted her with her new satellite GPS collar, measurements and samples taken and then released at the same site.

“The team was on the go for more than 24 hours with very little sleep,” said Wirka, ACR Director of Stewardship, noting that this marks the third mountain lion to be fitted with a GPS collar under a Scientific Collection permit issued to ACR by California Department of Fish and Wildlife in July. In November, a 10-month old mountain lion (P3) was captured but weighed under the 50-pound minimum for the GPS collar. Data was collected on this lion and the team hopes to recapture her in the future.

About The ACR Mountain Lion Project
The ACR Mountain Lion Project studies mountain lions within an area that encompasses approximately 1,000 square miles, primarily in the Mayacamas Mountains (areas east of Hwy 101 and west of Hwy 29) in Sonoma and Napa Counties, and pairs the research with extensive education and outreach programs. Project partners include the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California State Parks, Sonoma County Regional Parks, and Sonoma Land Trust.

ACR’s researchers use a humanely-designed cage fitted with a satellite trap transmitter as well as motion-activated cameras, allowing the team to be notified instantly once a mountain lion is inside, minimizing stress and possible injury to the animal. Biological samples are analyzed at UC Davis, and will provide vital genetic and health information about the local population of mountain lions.

ACR’s research goals include using the data to gain a better understanding of how wildlife in general move between habitat areas. “Mountain lions are sometimes called an ‘umbrella species’ because they have large ranges and special habitat requirements,” said Jeanne Wirka, ACR’s Director of Stewardship. “If a mountain lion population is able to survive and thrive in a fragmented landscape, it suggests other animals can as well.” Conservation of mountain lions therefore infers ensuring conservation of all other components of this ecosystem.

The ACR Mountain Lion Project is funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Sonoma Land Trust, Disney Conservation Fund, Patagonia, Bushtracks Expeditions, Serengeti Eyewear, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Calpine and generous supporters of ACR.