From Southern California, public radio for your eyes.

SoCal's Big Cats, Up Close

It’s mountain lion season in Southern California.

Over the next couple months, scientists from UC Davis’s Wildlife Health Center will be putting tags and GPS on as many wild cougars as they can.

On a recent night, it was pitch dark, the frogs were croaking and Winston Vickers was trying to sedate a wild cougar.

The lion – this one is named F95 – snarled and rattled against the sides of her cage. Take Two freelancer Jed Kim recorded what that sounds like:

Minutes later, it took the whole team to pull the unconscious cat from the trap and lay it on the ground so work could begin.

Vickers and his team have done this more than 100 times throughout Southern California.

Out of the 70 lions he has collared, half have died. Most of those deaths are directly related to humans.

Vickers' team is made up of people from Department of Fish and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy and local parks departments. They're trying to figure out how to protect the mountain lion population here, but catching these cats is a tough task.

Sometimes it takes a few hours to get to the point of capture; sometimes it takes all night.

The team finally caught up with F95 at 1 a.m. They quickly measured the cat's teeth and paws, took blood samples, and checked the GPS signal on her new collar. They only have 45 minutes to do this, maybe less.

The sedation is starting to wear off and one of the team members has to hold her head down.

They decide to cut the health check short.

Winston Vickers helps F95 stand up and the team says goodbye to the 2-year-old cat, wishing her the best. They hope to see her have cubs soon.

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