A mountain lion killed another bighorn sheep in the Santa Catalina Mountains, bringing the death toll to five sheep.

This is the fourth sheep to die at the hands of a mountain lion, while only one sheep’s death has been attributed to capture myopathy.

Though the lion suspected in this fifth death was pursued, the search was discontinued due to a lack of certainty that the offending lion could be identified. 

Randy Serraglio, who is a member of the Center for Biological Diversity, sits on the advisory committee tasked with the Bighorn Sheep Reintroduction Project.

“I’m a cat person and I am not the only one on this committee,” Serraglio said. “So it really pains me to think of mountain lions being killed to benefit the bighorn sheep. But, when I take a step back and I look at the science and the overall population dynamics that are in play, I see it clearly as an opportunity to reintroduce a species that belongs in the Catalina Mountains. If we have to temporarily reduce the lions’ predation to make that happen, then that is a necessary and distasteful management option.”

This announcement comes on the heels of bighorn sheep being reintroduced into the mountains last November and a public outcry in support of not killing mountain lions. 

Since the sheep have been released, two mountain lions have been killed as a result of them killing a bighorn sheep. The plan negotiated by the committee to specifically and knowingly target the mountain lion that killed a bighorn sheep is the result of weighing numerous options that have been used in the past, which ranged from killing numerous mountain lions prior to the release of the sheep to not killing any mountain lions at all.

“It’s designed to be as effective as possible at giving the sheep a head start without negatively impacting the mountain lion population in the Catalinas,” Serraglio said.

Members of a group called Friends of Wild Animals attended the meeting last week in protest of killing the mountain lions. Though numerous questions were asked for a definitive number of mountain lions they plan to kill or how many sheep have to die to make the project a failure, no such numbers were given.

The project is said to be dynamic and susceptible to change as numerous variables are taken into account. 

Citing the project is still in its infancy, as far as the sheep’s release, Serraglio said it would be similar to watching a football game for two minutes and wondering why one of the teams has yet to win.

Wildlife officials plan to release updated information about the sheep and lions once every two weeks, with the next information coming out on Jan. 24.

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