P-18’s life pretty much typifies that of most current Santa Monica male lions. His lifetime and his manner of death unfortunately have now become quite ordinary. What was different was his future. P-18’s father was P-12, who lived in the Simi Hills for several years before becoming the first lion to cross the 101 freeway.
P-12 brought new genetic material into the Santa Monica mountain lion general population along with hope that in-breeding might no longer be a threat to the existence of lions in our mountains. All other lions, like P-13, the mother, were related and so part of an in-breeding network that would inevitably produce mutations.
A mutant lion does not stand a chance in the heavy competition for territory. P-18, along with his sisters P-17 and P-19, were the immediate result of P-12’s mating with P-13. His ability to make it across the freeway made him the first to do so. All other lions recorded behavior has been to pace back and forth along multiple lanes of heavy traffic and then return to their home territory.
When P-12 crossed the 101, he hooked up with P-13 and then left. Males never stay with the females they mate with and so he was soon on his way to mate with other females and establish a new territory as another solitary male. P-18’s sister, P-19, died within a few months of neglect and starvation. She was found to have anti-coagulant rodent poison in her blood stream, probably passed up the food chain from rats and squirrels poisoned by local homeowners not willing to use other methods.
P-18 lived to 2 years of age, when he became mature enough to begin life on his own. At that time he was big enough to pose a threat to his mother and her food source. She drove him off and he began what the National Park System calls dispersal, or a hunt for his own territory, like his father.
There is very little room for lions in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation (SMMNRA). Male lions need more than one hundred square miles to find enough to eat. Imagine a homeless person hunting for aluminum drink cans who needs $4 each day to eat. At a nickel a can, how many trash barrels does he /she have to hit so they can find enough for dinner? If there is someone else poking around, it’s a survival problem.
So P-18 looked longingly across eight lanes of traffic on the 405 and headed out during the morning rush. He was nailed in the first lane by a driver who did not report the collision. P-18 died at the edge of the freeway, blocking traffic headed for the Getty Center. Other lions from other districts have been killed attempting to cross Interstate 5. Unfortunately, this type of death now typifies SMMNRA lions. Los Angeles Real Estate is pretty expensive.
P-19, his sister, grew to adulthood. P-12 found her and mated with her, yes his own daughter, and she gave birth to two kittens, P-23 and 24, as reported in a few of weeks ago. It’s hard to say no to an adult male lion, in-breeding has once more raised its ugly head. P-12 also mated with an uncollared female, fathering the lion that was shot by Santa Monica Police earlier this summer. P-12 may be referred to soon as the Playboy of the Santa Monica Mountains.