Our mountain neighbors, the local lions of the Santa Monica Mountains lead rather well defined lives; they live in limited territories, once the female is pregnant the male leaves, the female raises the young and once the young males are of age their mother drives them off to find a new territory. P-18 left to head east to find a new place and was nailed on the 405 in early morning commuter traffic at the Getty Center. P-22 made it all the way to Griffith Park where he is now living alone in the wild areas there. P-12 made it across the 101 at Liberty Canyon and mated with P-13, producing several off spring, one of which he mated with to produce more off-spring. His success was welcomed by the NPS because he was able to bring new genetic material into the Santa Monica Mountains lion gene pool.
Recently another tragedy struck our lion population. A lion attempting to reverse P-12’s steps through the Liberty Canyon Wildlife corridor early Monday morning was struck and killed by East Bound traffic, attempting to cross the 101 to the North. The details of this lion’s life are not available due to the NPS shut down. It could have been p-12. The lion population is down to less than 10 lions and the loss of this one was met with sadness on the part of the mountain lion community. Had this lion made it across, it would have been able to travel through the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Corridor. All we need to do now is keep lions from getting killed while crossing the 101.
Life for this alpha predator is fragile in our mountains. In the past few years about a third of the general population have been killed by vehicles and each lion captured and tagged has been found to have rat poison in their blood stream . One was the victim of a poacher in Pt.Mugu State park. Two others died of mange, a disease closely associated with rat poison. Every lion faces death as a result of competition with other lions, including their own relatives. Competition for food rules their lives.
Some people commenting on my series of articles about lions have expressed their fear of these animals while I have suggested another approach. P-22’s successful life in the middle of Griffith Park very clearly illustrates his need to avoid people. He is very successful at it and is doing well. In spite of his clear proximity to a great many people, he is staying away. Look for his picture in National Geographic Magazine later this year. It was taken by a remote motion-triggered camera. The only thing that will cause him to leave Griffith Park is his need to find a mate. He has no competition and plenty to eat. The lion that tried and failed to cross the 101 at Liberty Canyon this time got nailed by a vehicle that once again just left the scene. It’s dangerous, actually fatal, for lions to come anywhere near people. No wonder they leave us alone.