Female Mountain Lion is 99th tracked in the study of the Santa Monica Mountains

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The National Park Service captured its 99th Mountain Lion for an ongoing study of the big cat community that inhabit the Santa Monica Mountains.

The female cat, named P-99, is estimated to be 2 to 3 years old and was found in the western portion of the Santa Monica Mountains, valet parking officials said.

After her capture on September 8, the young mountain lion underwent a “full screening” that included measurements, biological samples, a physical exam, and a GPS radio collar, according to an Instagram post from the Park Service, which contained a photo of the big cat.

Social media users flattered the cougar, calling her “stunning” and “beautiful” with a note: “those eyes”. Several local lions have gained notoriety, including P-22, a headline grabber that settled in Griffith Park.

P-99 is now part of a study launched by the National Park Service in 2002 to understand how the cougars that live in and near the Santa Monica Mountains survive in an urban setting supported by treacherous highways and urban development is narrowed.

The area for the study is south of the 405 Freeway and north of the 101 Freeway, and does not include Simi Hills and beyond, said Ana Beatriz Cholo, a public affairs officer for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

While the population size of the puma is difficult to pin down, it is believed that the region can feed 10 to 15 mountain lions at a time, excluding kittens, “because they need prey, they need their territory, and the males usually really need a lot of space” – between 150 and 200 square miles, said Cholo. Officials are currently tracking 13 mountain lions with GPS collars in the area.

Many of the lions who participated in the nearly two-decade study have died, but their legacy lives on in valuable information gathered by biologists and others who track the big cats.

“We learned so much,” said Cholo, noting that the research from the study provided the basis for a proposed wildlife bridge over the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills that would allow mountain lions to venture into new territory and search genetically unequal comrades while avoiding the roaring cars on the busy road. Caltrans expects to break ground for the $ 87 million bridge in Liberty Crossing early next year.

The mountain lion population has been unable to spread to new areas due to its fragmented habitat and has suffered significant inbreeding, officials said.

Genetic analysis found that lions in the Santa Monica Mountains along with another isolated population in the Santa Ana Mountains south of Los Angeles “have the lowest genetic diversity ever documented in the west,” said the National Park Service.

The only population with lower genetic diversity was observed in South Florida in the mid-1990s, when that state’s panther population was critically endangered, according to valet parking.

Scientists believe that excessive inbreeding manifests itself as physical abnormalities. In March 2020, a mountain lion named P-81 was discovered with a kinked, L-shaped tail and only one descending testicle. And there have been sightings of other mountain lions with visible anomalies, Cholo said.

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

However, with the pumas not all is doom and darkness.

Last summer was a boom year for kittens, with 13 five mountain lion mothers born between May and August in the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills.

Park officials dubbed it the “summer of the kittens” and said it was the first time many lion caves were found in such a short time during the student years.

Four new mountain lion kittens found in the California mountains

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Quote: Female mountain lion is 99th in the Santa Monica Mountains study (2021, October 20), accessed October 25, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-10-female-mountain-lion-99th- tracked.html

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