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The Wild Horses of the Santa Rosa Mountains

The Wild Horses of the Santa Rosa Mountains

Mountain lions are eating California wild donkeys. Why scientists say this is a good thing

By Rebecca Cottongim

The California desert is a harsh and unforgiving place. Its harshness is felt not only in the lack of vegetation but also by the heat and drought. The heat and drought are felt far more acutely when you are far from any water source. That is exactly the situation for the California wild horses that are struggling to survive in the Santa Rosa Mountains in Northern California.

California wild horses are in urgent need of water. But to protect the dwindling population it is vital that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, (CDFW) provide the horses access to water for their drinking and cooking needs. But what happens when a natural water source such as a mountain stream or a wetland is too distant from any source of water? What happens if the horses have to travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to find a natural source?

A new study published in the Journal of Mammalogy, “California wild horses and mountain lions in a California desert landscape”, by a University of Tennessee, Knoxville, (UT) research team led by Dr. Michael Stuebe, published online on July 20, 2017 and in an upcoming print edition of the journal on July 25, 2017, provides the answers to questions about the role mountain lions and horses play in maintaining the viability of the California wild horse populations.

Mountain lions and horses share similar environmental characteristics. They exist in natural, open, fire-free areas. They have similar habits of foraging for food in both the dry and wet season. And they share similar social and mating characteristics. They share the same predators that prey on both horses and lions, such as coyotes, bobcats and hawks. And they share the same parasites that they both catch in their fur and prey on, such as lice, ticks and fleas.

The study results showed that as horses and lions move into areas frequented by human settlements, their encounters with mountain lions increase. And the horses move to new areas, often by themselves, where the lion population is lower. But the mountain lions do not simply move into the area. The lions are forced into these new areas by the horses. They are forced to leave their established areas to seek food resources to sustain their own populations.

The study also revealed that, when mountain lions are present in a new area, their

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