SM MOUNTAINS — Staff with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area are awaiting the results of DNA testing to determine whether or not a newly collared female mountain lion is the kitten of a lion recently seen in the Hidden Valley region.
The DNA testing is currently being done by UCLA to determine the relationship between the animals, dubbed P-13 and P-6. P-13 was recently discovered and tagged as part of a program that began in 2002 to study and track the movement of mountain lions to see what impacts urbanization has had on the animals.
P-6 was seen recently in the area where P-13 was radio-collared, according to remote camera photos.
Other mountain lions are also confirmed residents of the Santa Monica Mountains. Mountain lion P-1, the first one collared in this study, is now thought to be 12 or 13 years old and is most likely alive following a fight with another mountain lion. P-10 and P-12 are both 2-year-old males with functioning collars and currently inhabit the Topanga and Malibu Creek areas respectively, although male lions often roam across the entire Santa Monica Mountains. P-13 joins them as the third mountain lion with a functioning collar. She is thought to be at least 1 year old.
Mountain lions face significant challenges in the Santa Monica Mountains, primarily due to limited habitat and threats from urbanization including freeways, such as Highway 101, that obstruct travel, said Lauren Newman, policy and external affairs manager for the recreation area.
In February of 2009, P-12 successfully crossed Highway 101 at Liberty Canyon, an unprecedented event in the mountain lion study. Designated wildlife corridors within the mountains offer the lions opportunities for long distance movement and the ability to discover new mates. Mountain lions have a range up to 250 square miles, and require ample acreage to find sufficient food.
To date there haven’t been any reported negative direct interactions between humans and mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, Newman said. Sightings are incredibly rare, even for people who spend large amounts of time in the area.
Preservation of open space and wildlife corridors in the Santa Monica Mountains through local, state, and federal partnerships is integral to regional mountain lion survival, Newman said.
“One of the goals of the park is to create either an underpass or overpass to allow wildlife to cross the 101, potentially at Liberty Canyon, which has habitat on both sides of the freeway,” Newman said. “That project is still in the concept stage as we work with partners to identify the best place to put it, and also identify possible funding sources.”