Mountain Lions Are Eating California Wild Donkeys, Cheering Scientists

"An apex predator has been quietly hunting interlopers in Death Valley, and for the first time, the deadly encounter has been captured on camera.

A mountain lion can be seen via nighttime images pouncing onto the back of an in-stride wild donkey.

The cougar easily wins the fight: A photograph taken seven minutes later shows it standing over the dead donkey, eyes glimmering as it stares into a wildlife camera.

“It’s extremely rare to get a predation on camera,” said Erick Lundgren, the biologist who captured the images. “I guess that just goes to show that [this] predation is really not [that] rare in Death Valley.”

The newly documented cougar-donkey dynamic has been the focus of little research, but it might illustrate a developing relationship between the two animals that could benefit the ecosystem, according to a recent study.

The feral donkeys, also known as burros, have long been considered invasive and major disruptors of native species and habitats in Death Valley, pillaging wetlands and destroying vegetation other animals rely on. But Lundgren is hoping this study could shift how conservationists and researchers view the donkeys."

Grace Toohey reports for the Los Angeles Tmes October 5, 2022.

Source: LA Times, 10/07/2022