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Malibu News

Mountain Lion Fundraiser May 19
Posted by Kyle Maloney on Apr 9, 2013 - 4:12:34 PM

MALIBU—For many residents of Los Angeles, mountain lions continue to populate the myriad of mountains and canyons that surround the city.

The Santa Monica Mountains, which are bordered by major freeways, an ocean, and heavy urban development is the home to a vast and thriving wildlife. Mountain lions are commonly spotted roaming the hills, and every so often their presence makes headlines—just last August one was discovered prowling Griffith Park.

However, with consistent city expansions and an increase in human population, local wildlife is facing the threat of losing large portions of its natural habitat. Last summer, two mountain lion kittens were discovered in the Santa Monica Mountains by National Park Service biologists.

Wildlife Biologist Jeff Sikich with mountain lion kitten. Courtesy National Park Service.
The kittens, one male and one female, are the offspring of Puma 19, one of the many lions being tracked in the area through the use of GPS radio-collars.

“We’ve implanted tiny transmitters in P23 and P24 [the kittens],” wildlife biologist Jeff Sikich told Canyon News. “They’re doing well. They’re with mom now, and we’re following them throughout the week, seeing where they travel.”

In an effort to further research on mountain lions in the area, the Santa Monica Mountains Fund is holding its 2nd Annual Fundraiser for Mountain Lion Research on Sunday, May 19. The non-profit organization hopes to raise money for the purchase of key technology to conduct more in-depth studies of the species, as mountain lions are facing many challenges with increasing urbanization.

According to Wildlife Project Fund Chair Julie Newsome, fundraising with the Santa Monica Mountains Fund, and events like the one scheduled May 19, are ways to help make sure the critical needs in research are met.

“These studies provide a rare opportunity to learn how living next to millions of people affects these solitary carnivores,” Newsome told Canyon News. “I can see how our local wildlife suffers from close interaction with humans and urbanization.”

Sikich affixing radio collar on P12. Courtesy National Park Service.
Of the technology needed to move forward, Sikich said, “To run the study [requires] many things: miscellaneous supplies, like radio tracking equipment and remote cameras. All these things will help us continue and advance our mountain lion project, which has very limited funds right now.”

The birth of P23 and P24 brings the total of studied mountain lions in the area up to 24. But according to Sikich, not every lion is tagged.

In 2008, male lion P12 crossed the 101 Freeway, which is the first documented case of a mountain lion traversing one of the major roads in Los Angeles. P12, the father of the two kittens born last year, is likewise the father of their mother, P19, as confirmed by a series of genetic testing.

This is the second occurrence of first-order inbreeding among the mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains. According to Sikich, the congenital repercussions of such behavior are “not good for the overall outlook” of the Santa Monica mountain lion population.

 “We know that the mountains are not large enough to sustain a viable population of lives without habitat connectivity,” Sikich said. “The freeways make very fragmented ecosystems and trap these lions within a confined habitat.”

Inbreeding, however, is just one of the many challenges these animals face. In the mix of a growing city, road mortality is a large issue, along with poisoning due to rodenticides (rat poisons).

“You have the lion that ate the coyote that ate the ground squirrel that ate the poison,” Sikich said. “It’s very discouraging. All of our research about what [the lions] are facing in these urban areas, and how they’re surviving, will be used to promote mountain lion preservation within the Santa Monica Mountains.”

P12 remains on the south side of the 101 Freeway in the Santa Monica Mountains, staying near the Malibu Creek State Park and Trancas Canyon areas. The kittens, according to Sikich, “hang out mostly with mom on the western side of the Santa Monica Mountains.”

“Mom will kick them out after about a year, year and a half. Then they’re on their own,” he said. “With the money we raise, we expect to purchase radio collars to put on the two of them in particular.”

At the 2nd Annual Fundraiser for Mountain Lion Research, a live mountain lion will be joining guests along with interactive displays, food and wine. Admission to the event is $100 for adults and $25 for children under 12. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit

“On a personal level, these wild cats are a silent reminder that nature still exists, even in this metropolitan area of Los Angeles,” Newsome said. “There is no doubt that human populations will continue to grow; and the information learned here may not only help these creatures, but also animals living elsewhere.”


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