Mountain Lion Kittens Collared in Grand Canyon

This mountain lion in Grand Canyon took a self-portrait by triggering an infrared camera. NPS photo.

When I think of wildlife in Grand Canyon National Park, I typically think of condors, lizards, and mules. Mountain lions are not high on the list. But apparently they should be, as park wildlife biologists have just placed tags on three five-week-old lion kittens.

The kittens were found thanks to the radio collar their mom was wearing. Later this year the biologists hope to recapture the three so they can be fitted with radio collars of their own.

Since November 2003, 16 adult mountain lions have been captured and radio collared inside the park. Nine of these lions (six males and three females) are still collared and being monitored by park staff. The purpose of this research is to monitor how lions use the park and surrounding lands, including the Kaibab National Forest. The research will also provide information on how mountain lions interact (or most often choose not to interact) with humans and how human infrastructure affects them.

“Grand Canyon National Park provides important habitat and prey for mountain lions in all areas of the park including sites frequented by people,” says park wildlife biologist Eric York. “By understanding mountain lion movements, population dynamics and habits, biologists can make efforts to limit the potential negative interactions between lions and humans. This data will be utilized to inform and educate visitors on how to safely share the Grand Canyon with mountain lions.”

To date there have been no threatening encounters by lions in the study. However, park officials say humans have been responsible for four mountain lion deaths within the past two years - two from vehicle collisions inside the park and two that were legally hunted outside of the park boundary.

Another collared mountain lion died due to natural causes. Park biologists have also lost contact with two previously collared lions. It is believed that one collar fell off and the other collar failed. The fate of these two lions is unknown.