Mountain lions in Nevada contribute to healthy deer population

Did you know mountain lions help out other species like deer? Lions are often viewed as being destructive, but it’s actually quite the opposite. It takes a lot of energy to hunt, and lions kill only one deer a week if they are successful.

The Nevada Department of Wildlife notes that “Some people view mountain lions as detrimental to the deer population in Nevada. In many cases, their hunting activity is actually beneficial to prey animal populations. Mountain lions often prey on sick or weak animals, and by doing so, remove diseased animals and weaker genes from the breeding population.”

Mountain lions also keep deer alert and on the move.  Sick or weak animals will be less able to keep up.  Those deer that are more wary and connected to the herd will be more likely to survive. Mountain lion predation can strengthen the stability of the food web, creating a healthy population of deer.

In addition to creating viable deer communities, mountain lions have other positive impacts on the environment due to their influence on deer. When mountain lions are present, grazing occurs over a broader area.  Fewer places – including lush streamsides and vernal pools – suffer from over-grazing.  When this occurs, other animals that depend upon the vegetation for food and shelter can be negatively impacted or even starve. Plant communities are important because they decrease the amount of erosion of sediment and dirt into streams. Overgrazing can have an impact on water quality, which can harm fish and amphibian populations.

Being on top of the food chain means mountain lions have a vital role in maintaining complex interactions within ecosystems.

Lisa Wooden

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