SANTA MONICA—Researchers from the National Park Service announced on Tuesday, April 4, that Santa Monica has a new resident – a four-week-old mountain lion officials have named “P-54.”
Wildlife researchers found P-54 while her mother, P-23, was away from the den, the Los Angeles Daily News reported. After an extensive search of the area for possible siblings of P-54, researchers have determined that the newborn lion was probably the only offspring produced by her parent’s pairing.
While the birth is good news for the endangered Santa Monica mountain lion population, the only urban lion population in the U.S., researchers are concerned that the father of the newborn cub is likely a male lion named P-30; P-23’s half-brother.
Inbreeding is one of the major problems facing the Santa Monica mountain lions’ survival, according to a 2015 article in Scientific American. Quarantined from the rest of the lion populations of the Santa Susana Mountains to the north and the Angeles National Forest to the east, there are only about a dozen lions inhabiting the Santa Monica range. Fenced in by the busy U.S. 101 and other Southern California freeways, the lions are stuck on a “island of habitat,” making the Santa Monican lion population one of the least genetically diverse populations of cougars in the country. In 2016, three mountain lions, a mother and her two kittens, were killed while trying to navigate the dangerous California highways.
Mountain lions living in such close proximity to each other often leads to what scientists call “anomalous behavior,” such as incest and familicide. If this continues, experts believe the situation will ultimately lead to the extinction of the big cats in the area, the article stated.
As a possible solution to the problem, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in partnership with the Santa Monica Mountains Fund (SMMF), The California State Coastal Conservancy (CSCC), and other philanthropic groups have proposed the building of a land bridge spanning the U.S. 101 freeway in Agoura Hills. The bridge would span the ten lanes of the highway at Agoura Road, allowing the lions the freedom to safely travel throughout the region.
As of 2015, the NWF had raised $1.1 million of the projected $55 million required to build the corridor. The campaign hopes to raise another $10 million by this year, and the remainder by 2019. If the full amount is raised, the crossing is expected to be completed by 2021.
Those wishing to donate to the #SaveLACougars fund can find more information at www.savelacougars.org.