My wife, Stephani, and I have tried to manage our ranch in Northern California as a wildlife preserve. We have protected or help create natural wild food sources, year-round water and cover, the three keys for ideal wildlife habitat.
Over a five-year period, deer, squirrels, wild turkey, quail and blue grouse have flourished. I have also seen rabbits, mice, fox, bear, mink, badger, bobcat, raccoon, skunk and many raptors — including bald eagle, golden eagle, red-tailed hawks, and Great horned owls — along with many geese, ducks, blue herons, flickers and songbirds, and many other birds. In other words, it worked. It became a wildlife paradise.
Then the mountain lions showed up and everything got wiped out or was run off over the course of six months. When the lions killed two llamas and a calf on neighboring property, the DFG killed two lions with depredation permits, and the necropsy confirmed llama meat in their stomachs.
After that episode, within three years, the wildlife again prospered. We had several trophy-size deer emerge, and multiple hatches of blue grouse and quail, among many highlights.
Then last summer and fall, I noticed signs of a stunning lack of deer. A neighbor, wildlife expert Jim Pfeiffer, wondered if disease had wiped out the squirrels. Then, in my searches, we started finding occasional deer legs. This has continued for eight months, with the latest find last week. Yep, the mountain lions are back.
Tom says the big cats are a “protected” species because of a well-meaning ballot initiative that resulted in mountain lions receiving official protection that they don’t really need. Granted, his “wildlife preserve” isn’t exactly wild with no predators among all those pretty prey species, but this does show what happens when good intentions collide with 100-pound beasts with very large teeth and strong jaws.