National Park Service tracks its 99th Mountain Lion for ongoing study on the Santa Monica Mountains

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The National Park Service has successfully trapped its 99th mountain lion as part of an ongoing search for the group of big cats that inhabit the Santa Monica Mountains.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Mother Cat P-99

The cat, nicknamed P-99, is estimated to be 2-3 years old and was discovered in the western Santa Monica Mountains, according to park service officials.

According to a park service Instagram post that included a photo of the young mountain lion, she received a full checkup after her capture on September 8, which included a visual inspection, collection of biological samples, a physical examination and her equipment. . with a satellite radio collar.

P-99 is currently part of a National Park Service study established in 2002 to learn how cougars living in and near the Santa Monica Mountains inhabit a city surrounded by dangerous roads and urban development.

According to Ana Beatriz Cholo, communications manager for the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, the study’s coverage is closer to the coast of Highway 405 and north of Highway 101, and does not include Simi Hills and even beyond.

Although the exact number of pumas in the area is unknown, Cholo estimates that the area can accommodate 10 to 15 pumas at any given time, excluding kittens, “because they need prey, they need their territory and males usually really need a little space “- between 150 and 200 square miles. Authorities are now monitoring 13 pumas in the region using GPS collars.

Read also: Mountain lions are terrified of one thing: the sound of a human voice

The study

Even some of the lions who participated in the research for nearly two decades have passed away, but their legacy continues in the vital data collected by scientists and others who watch the huge animals.

“We have learned so much,” Cholo said, adding that the study results were used to help build a wildlife bridge across Highway 101 in Agoura Hills that will allow mountain lions to explore. new habitat and find biologically distinct mates while avoiding speeding. motorists on the busy highway.

Caltrans plans to begin construction of the $ 87 million bridge at Liberty Crossing early next year. The lion community has been plagued by significant crossbreeding, officials said, due to their inability to move to new areas due to fractured habitat.

Mountain lion

(Photo: Getty Images)

Genetic diversity

According to DNA surveys, the Santa Monica Mountain lions, along with another group confined to the Santa Ana Mountains south of Los Angeles, “have the lowest levels of genetic diversity ever documented in the West.”

According to the service, the only group with less species variability was found in South Florida in the mid-1990s, when the state’s feline community was on the brink of extinction.

According to scientists, increased interbreeding begins to manifest itself in the form of physical defects. P-81, a puma with an L-shaped curly tail and yet a descending testis, was discovered in March 2020. Several pumas with noticeable deformities were also seen, according to Cholo.

At the time, it was described as a “serious discovery” by Jeff Sikich, a wildlife biologist with the National Park Service, who added that it highlighted the need for action to better help this species. Even so, not all pumas are unhappy.

Associated article: Rare mountain lions spotted in Kansas

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