Mountain lions are eating California wild donkeys. Why scientists say this is a good thing
The California wild donkey is in a life-threatening drought and the world’s largest mountain lion, Lassie, has returned to the state.
But even as California wildlife officials are bracing for another storm of attacks, it’s the mountain lions that seem to be thriving.
Wild donkeys, also known as the mountain zebra, are the world’s most endangered species, a top priority of the U.S. government.
Wild donkey deaths are not uncommon, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with one donkey dying every two days in the U.S. Most are killed by mountain lions, who have a taste for the donkeys’ soft organs, especially from pregnant females.
The donkeys are also a food source for lions, which live in close proximity to humans.
And that’s important, says Scott Reeder, a wildlife officer at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Oregon.
“Our wild animals are our most important food source,” he said.
The mountain lion, one of two types of carnivores that roved freely across the California coastline, has been active for a week, killing six wild donkeys. Reeder said there was nothing unusual about the attacks, which happened about a month after a similar incident with mule deer and elk in the same area.
But Reeder said the lions’ presence has created a new crisis for wildlife officials. They have to monitor the animals more closely, and are concerned about the risk of disease and, even worse, of attack.
“They have a lot of meat, and they have been eating them,” he said, adding that the mountain lions have killed one of the wild donkey’s eight pups, and the wild donkey has been seen wandering around