The primary challenge to mountain lion population viability in California is habitat loss and fragmentation. These habitat impacts could enhance disease risk by increasing contact with domestic animals and by altering patterns of exposure to other wild felids. We performed a serologic survey for feline pathogens in California mountain lions (Puma concolor) using 490 samples from 45 counties collected from 1990 to 2008. Most mountain lions sampled were killed because of depredation or public safety concerns and 75% were adults. Pathogens detected by serosurvey in sampled mountain lions included feline panleukopenia virus (39.0%), feline calicivirus (33.0%), feline coronavirus (FCoV, 15.1%), feline herpesvirus (13.0%), heartworm (12.4%), feline leukemia virus (5.4%), and canine distemper virus (3%). An outbreak of heartworm exposure occurred from 1995 to 2003 and higher than expected levels of FCoV-antibody–positive mountain lions were observed from 2005 to 2008, with foci in southern Mendocino and eastern Lake counties. We show that the majority of mountain lions were exposed to feline pathogens and may be at risk of illness or fatality, particularly kittens. Combined with other stressors, such as ongoing habitat loss, infectious disease deserves recognition for potential negative impact on mountain lion health and population viability.
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Vol. 49 • No. 2