Mountain lion P-99 is latest in National Park Service study

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The National Park Service has captured its 99th mountain lion for an ongoing study of the big cat community living in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Nicknamed P-99, the cat is around 2 to 3 years old and was found in the western part of the Santa Monica Mountains, park service officials said.

For memory :

2:09 p.m. October 19, 2021A previous version of this article indicated that the National Park Service study of pumas in the Santa Monica Mountains did not include Simi Hills and beyond. The study includes animals from Simi Hills, Griffith Park and other areas.

After his capture on September 8, the young mountain lion received a “full examination”, which involved taking measurements, collecting biological samples, performing a physical examination and fitting it with a GPS radio collar. , according to an Instagram post from the park. service which included a photo of the fat cat.

Social media users adored the cougar, calling her “gorgeous” and “gorgeous”, with one note: “Those eyes.” Several local lions have achieved celebrity status, including P-22, a headline that settled in Griffith Park.

The P-99 is now part of a study started by the National Park Service in 2002 to understand how cougars living in and near the Santa Monica Mountains survive in an urban environment hampered by dangerous highways and urban development.

Authorities are currently tracking 13 mountain lions with GPS collars in the area.

Although the size of the cougar population remains elusive, it is believed that the Santa Monica Mountains can accommodate 10 to 15 pumas at a time, excluding kittens, “because they need prey, they need of their territory and males usually need a lot of space. ”- between 150 and 200 square miles, said Ana Beatriz Cholo, public affairs manager for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Many lions that were part of the nearly two-decade study have died, but their legacy lives on thanks to the valuable information gleaned by biologists and others who stalk big cats.

“We’ve learned so much,” Cholo said, noting that the study’s research provided the basis for a planned wildlife bridge over Highway 101 in Agoura Hills, which is intended to allow lions mountains to forge new territory and genetically search for different mates while avoiding the whistling cars on the busy road. Caltrans plans to inaugurate the $ 87 million bridge at Liberty Crossing early next year.

Unable to disperse to new areas due to their fragmented habitat, the cougar population is plagued by significant inbreeding, officials said.

Genetic analyzes have revealed that the Santa Monica Mountain lions, as well as another isolated population of the Santa Ana Mountains south of Los Angeles “have the lowest levels of genetic diversity ever documented in the West,” said the National Park Service.

The only population with lower genetic diversity was seen in South Florida in the mid-1990s, when that state’s panther population was heading towards extinction, according to the parks service.

Scientists believe that excessive inbreeding begins to manifest itself as physical abnormalities. In March 2020, a puma known as P-81 was discovered with a twisted L-shaped tail and a single descended testicle. And there have been sightings of other pumas with visible abnormalities, Cholo said.

Jeff Sikich, a wildlife biologist with the National Park Service, called the find a “serious discovery” at the time, adding that it “underscores the need for action to better support this population.”

However, all is not gloomy with cougars.

Last summer was a boom year for the kittens, with 13 born to five mother mountain lions between May and August in the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills. (Yes, there are pictures and they are as cute as you might expect.)

Calling it a “summer of kittens,” park officials said it was the first time that many lion dens have been discovered over such a brief period in years of study.


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