Lions Don’t Clean Their Plates
Teams of scientists have been studying mountain lion kills. One group did their studies in Alberta, the other more recently in Wyoming. The Alberta study covered 10 years, 54 radio collared lions and more than 1500 kill locations. The more recent American study, placed video cameras on 242 kills and monitored other species that also visited and scavenged.
The first study focused primarily on the species and number of animals hunted, the second, smaller study attempted to identify what scavengers benefited from lion kills.
My last article mentioned that lions target animals as large as horses and the Alberta study documented a single lion that killed 18 moose in one season. The study also identified that male lions which can grow to twice the size of females, tackle larger prey but that female lions feeding young killed more often.
The math the teams published is designed for human consumption.
The Alberta team calculated that a single male lion killed more than 5 tons of wildlife in a season and that females with cubs killed more often, but their kills were nearly a thousand pounds smaller overall. The average was eighteen pounds per days or .8 prey animals per week. But some lions that preyed on larger species such as moose or feral horses, put up to 42 pounds of meat on the ground per day.
Numbers mean little on their own without a human comparison. The most recently released data from the Wyoming study used the golden arches.
Mountain lions across their entire range from South America through Canada leave nearly 16 pounds of meat per day for scavengers, 3.3 million pounds. That’s estimated to be 500,000 more pounds per day than McDonald’s serves.
People in America eat more meat than almost any other nation at nearly 200 pounds per year, but the global average is 75 pounds of animal protein consumed per calendar year. A typical mountain lion produces as much meat as consumed by 133 humans. Although this comparison is weak since people pay butchers to trim fat, bone, and viscera.
Compare for a moment the most ravenous Canadian moose killer at 42 pounds per day and the least meat accessible human population of Bangladesh where people only consume a bit less than nine pounds of meat per year. A big lion produces as much meat each season for itself and scavengers as 1700 Bangladeshi’s put into their diets.
No other model of trickle-down-economics does a better job.
While mountain lions like humans, take only the preferred cuts, the Wyoming researchers claim that mountain lions in their study fed more subspecies. Dr. Mark Elbroch stated that cameras documented more scavengers feeding at Teton lion kills than had been documented anywhere else in the world. Fifteen percent of all the documented species in that area benefited and consumed meat killed by lions.
The opening day of lion season, my son-in-law found such a kill and set up cameras to document for ourselves the incredible number of animals that use lions to supply their meals. Eagles, coyotes, fox, and magpies fought with crows over the young whitetail in the pictures we captured. In previous seasons we have found elk and photographed skunks and pine martin, chickadees and turkeys all visiting the carcass to get protein to see them through the harsh winter.
In other news, Lawrence County might be seeing a mini lion surge next year. Two large males that kept their own population in check have been harvested. When dominant cats are taken out of the population, it is possible for more cubs to survive. Younger cats are experimental eaters and stray into town chasing urban wildlife and making many of the same poor choices as human teens.
To keep more meat for themselves, lions cover their kills with branches and grasses. If you should discover a pile of leaves with eyes and ears protruding, you have stumbled on a lion cache. Set up a trail camera and see for yourself the diversity of meat-eaters in the Black Hills.