LA’s Mountain Lions roam closer than previously understood: Survey

LOS ANGELES, CA – They live and roam in one of the country’s most densely populated areas – Los Angeles – but mountain lions that have been studied for the past 15 years in the Santa Monica Mountains rarely venture into residential areas and thrive instead. for in the coverage of chaparral and scrub brush according to a study by the National Park Service.

But that does not mean that they are always far from humanity, as evidenced by location data collected by GPS collars mounted on nearly 30 of the cats.

“We found that it is very rare for mountain lions to venture into neighborhoods,” said biologist Jeff Sikich, co-author and lead NPS field researcher, in a statement. “Overall, only about 1% of the sites were actually in urban areas. However, it was interesting to see that in our analysis of habitat selection, mountain lions were consistently closer to urban development than expected at random. This could be due to mules, deer, their main prey, can benefit from being around people. “

The comprehensive report on mountain lion movements in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area was published in the latest 2021 issue of the Journal of Wildlife Management. The study – entitled “Big Cats in the Big City: Spatial Ecology of Mountain Lions in Greater Los Angeles” – used more than 128,000 GPS location signals to evaluate how lions roam the landscape, noting which areas they tend to to visit and which they generally avoid.

Data indicated that lions rarely enter residential buildings, even avoiding landscaped areas such as golf courses and cemeteries. They tended to prefer “bush vegetation”, especially chaparral, which emphasized the importance of maintaining such environments for the lions to thrive.

“Previous studies, elsewhere and even in Southern California, have often focused on the importance of wooded areas for the species,” said Seth Riley, lead author and wildlife director at SMMNRA. “While river and oak forests were also selected, our results show that mountain lions, North America’s largest feline, can thrive in shrubbery and can survive even in intensely developed southern California.”

On average, adult male lions in the study had a “home area” of about 144 square kilometers, far larger than adult females, which roamed around a range of about 52 square kilometers.

The exception to the rule was a male lion named P-41, which was limited to about 21 square kilometers in Verdugos, while the most famous lion in the study – P-22 – roams around the approximately nine square kilometers, highway and development encapsulated environment in Griffith Park. But even the two cats restrict their movements primarily to nature areas and avoid housing construction.

The survey results indicate that despite the fact that Los Angeles is a highly populated and developed area, there seems to be enough open space left for the lions to continue in the region.

But several other dangers still threaten the population – continued evolution, rodent-ingested poisons, and highways that divide and separate open areas, restrict the movement of wildlife, and lead to inbreeding that can bring the lions’ long-term danger to survival.

The city’s news service

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