Biologists Tag 99th Mountain Lion in Santa Monica Mountains

Young female mountain lion found in western part of range

By Sam Catanzaro

Biologist recently outfitted a young female mountain lion in the western portion of the Santa Monica Mountains with a GPS collar, the 99th cat to be included as part of a long-term study. 

On September 8, 2021 biologists with the National Park Service (NPS) captured and tagged P-99, a female car estimated to be around two-three years old, in the western portion of the Santa Monica Mountains. 

“While the young mountain lion was anesthetized, a full work-up was performed that included collecting biological samples, taking morphological measurements, attaching an ear tag, conducting a physical exam, and fitting a GPS radio collar on her. She weighed 75 lbs. at the time of capture,” NPS officials said. 

Since 2002, the NPS has been studying mountain lions in and around the Santa Monica Mountains to determine how they survive in a fragmented and urbanized environment. Biologists at the park have captured and studied 99 individual mountain lions including dozens of litters of kittens. 

Currently, biologists are tracking 13 mountain lions with GPS collars in the region. 

“Mountain lions need sufficient prey and habitat to survive, and we estimate that the Santa Monica Mountains (south of the 101 and west of the 405) can support around 10-15 mountain lions. This number does not include kittens,” the NPS said. 

Mountain lions are threatened with local extinction in the Santa Monica Mountains due to their isolation from nearby populations. 

Southern California’s extensive freeway network presents a major barrier for wildlife, which is particularly a concern for the mountain lion population largely isolated in the Santa Monica Mountains. Planning and fundraising for a wildlife crossing over the 101 Freeway in the Liberty Canyon area of Agoura Hills is in progress. The bridge would provide a connection between the small population of lions in the Santa Monica Mountains and the large and genetically diverse populations to the north.

Another issue facing these cats is poison. Since the National Park Service launched its study of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains 17 years ago, over six lions have died from rat poison.

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