Mountain lions are eating California wild donkeys. Why scientists say this is a good thing
For most of the past century, people have been coming after a species called the California bighorn sheep — they call them mountain goats — that once filled every valley and canyon within a hundred miles of the Southern California coast.
These sheep were not native to the region.
They’ve been at the forefront of conservation efforts for decades, driven by concern for the wild or endangered species from which they come — and who would do well to heed this fact, as these animals — which feed on grasses and sagebrush — are under attack by an invasive grass called cheatgrass.
And now something we don’t really believe in has happened.
The donkeys are eating them.
The animals were once thought to be the primary culprits of the animal’s rapid decline, but they’re not. The animals that feed on cheatgrass are also causing the decline of the bighorns — not because the doves, or the bighorns, are eating them, but because of the grass that grows on them.
According to UC San Diego professor of ecological sciences and conservation of California’s natural heritage Mark Brown, in the past decade, the number of California bighorn sheep has been declining as dramatically as they’ve been in decline. And that’s because the animals are being killed by the cheatgrass that grows on them.
“The animals that are responsible for the animals dying off are the cheatgrass-eating birds,” Brown said. “But I think they are doing just fine.”
The cheatgrass-eating birds are an invasive species that has been around for some time. And it’s been moving westward — and then over the Sierra Nevada — over time.
It’s the same thing that’s happening with mountain lions, too.
And in the case of the mountain lions, it’s all the animals’ fault.
Mark Brown, who is also the chief scientist for the California mountain lion task force, says that the increase in the use of pesticides and the decrease in the amount of mountain lions seen in the country have contributed