Mountain Lions 101

Los Alamos

I would like to offer a little education on coexisting with mountain lions.  Though I am no wildlife biologist, I have learned a lot about these powerful creatures from observation, conversation, reading, and attending webinars discussing their behaviors and habits.  Living on the edge of Walnut Canyon, our wildlife cameras have captured many images of lions, bears, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, bobcats, skunks and one ring tail cat.  I have heard about recent cases where dogs have been taken from backyards during the night time hours.  It is my hope to educate residents on lion behavior and to offer strategies to avoid future tragedies.

     Lions are most active anytime from dusk to dawn.  They are elusive animals, as afraid of humans as we are of them.  Their primary food source in our area is mule deer.  However, once a lion realizes prey is in a confined area, they will take advantage of an easier hunting experience.  A dog left barking in a backyard is a definite beacon for a lion.  They are excellent rock and tree climbers, so a fence surrounding a yard poses no protection for pets.

       We once found a raccoon carcass very close to our backyard fence.  The biggest clue that it was a lion kill was the burial of the raccoon.  They often bury prey and hang out in the vicinity (often in trees) so that they can eat at their leisure.  Coyotes, ravens, and others will also work on the carcass but the burial keeps the scent down making it more difficult for other animals to detect.  If you happen upon a partially buried deer, be extra cautious.  Make noise and look up (in trees) and move away.  Certainly leash dogs.  One benefit of lions killing deer is that it offers food for the hungry bears emerging from hibernation.

     Here are some tips to keep your pets safe.  Do not leave them outside unattended for any amount of time at night or dawn.  Turn on outside lights, make noise, announce yourself loudly before going out and only let dogs out after you have made sure your yard is safe.  Stay outside with them.  Motion detector lights are an excellent idea.  Lots of voices and noise are definitely a good idea.  The bottom line is any dog or cat left alone outside in the dark is subject to a lion’s hunt.

Please remember that mountain lions have an important part in our ecosystem and play a vital role in maintaining ecological balance.  They control deer populations (often killing diseased deer) and we can agree we have too many deer.  With a little planning and thought, we can preserve our local lion population and live alongside them  Please visit for excellent information and better appreciation for their existence!