Mountain lions are eating California wild donkeys. Why scientists say this is a good thing
After nearly two weeks of relentless digging, the California National Parks Service discovered a mountain lion digging into the flesh of a donkey in Death Valley National Park. The animal is described as a small male weighing about 600 pounds — the largest wild donkey in California.
The mountain lion isn’t known to have killed the animal.
There’s no sign of any other animals in the area, and the donkeys are from Nevada. (Nevada doesn’t get mountain lions anymore.)
Mountain lions are a big problem in Death Valley National Park — this particular one in particular.
In recent years, death Valley has been hit by an unprecedented number of mountain lion mortalities, with the Park Service estimating that there are about 12 mountain lion deaths per day. The deaths have come as scientists, including the American Museum of Natural History, were trying to find out whether mountain lion hunting is good for the California condor.
In 2015, Park Service officials found a mountain lion carcass — a mountain lion has to be about four feet long to be a “large adult” — just outside the park boundary. The mountain lion was shot by a Park Service ranger.
This year was different.
This year, instead of an adult mountain lion, the Park Service found a small male weighing about 600 pounds.
The mountain lion was digging into the donkey’s flesh, said Donny Hartnett, a research scientist with the Park Service’s North Bay Scientific Services Center in Walnut Creek.
As a Park Service scientist, Hartnett does a lot of work on mountain lions. He’s not the only one.
“We’ve had a lot of work over the last several years to try to figure out if mountain lions are a big threat,” Hartnett said. “The way this was done was we had to capture the individual, get him out and then have a lot of people from a variety of different agencies look at him.”
When Hartnett’s team arrived, the donkey was still alive — but very weak.
“It was tough