Mountain lions face greater risk of becoming roadkill in wildfire’s aftermath, study says
The risk of mountain lions going on to become roadkill in post-wildfire areas has increased with wildfire recovery efforts, while also showing up as a greater threat on the state’s roads.
“You see more mountain lions on the highways,” said Chris Bostick, director of the state’s department of wildlife and natural resources.
“You don’t see them on the trails or in the areas where they eat berries. You don’t see them in the campgrounds. They’re not used to people, so they’re not used to people who aren’t on foot.
“The problem is when they’re on the highways, they’re in a place where there’s limited access, and people are driving around so fast.”
Bostick estimates that more than half of all mountain lion fatalities in New Mexico occur on the highways.
He said the department has seen a significant rise in the number of mountain lions showing up as roadkill, with the majority being found at locations like abandoned vehicles and roadside camps.
While the agency did not have a specific example to back up its claim, the increase in mountain lions on highways “could be” caused by recovery efforts from the Rim fire, he said.
The Rim fire started when winds pushed a wildfire onto the San Juan National Forest on June 13.
The New Mexico Highway Patrol reported that just one day after the fire hit the national forest, mountain lion sightings decreased, but after day two, there were an average of five mountain lions per mile-long section of road.
Since the fire, the state has seen a larger increase of mountain lions showing up on highways, said Bostick.
While the fire killed dozens of off-road vehicles — mostly SUV SUVs — it also allowed other motor vehicles — pickup trucks and cars — to pass through unimpeded by thick smoke.
“They’re being used as pass-throughs, meaning people who are riding in vehicles are using them as routes to get from point A to point B,” Bostick said.
“The problem is, as soon as they pass through the smoke, they’re on the move — not necessarily hunting – people who are in vehicles