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Mountain Lions: Santa Monica Siblings Safely Cross Dangerous Freeway

Apr 27, 2015 12:21 PM EDT
A young P-33 caught on a wildlife camera hunched over a fresh kill while she was still stalking the isolated Santa Monica Mountains.
(Photo : Courtesy of National Park Service)

More have made it! Nearly three years after the famous "Hollywood mountain lion" crossed the Southland freeways looking for a new home, two more have braved and successfully accomplished the same feat.

Nature World News has previously described how the Santa Monica Mountains - home to many of California's mountain lions - is currently shut off from the rest of the world. The Los Angeles highway network, called the "Southland freeways," has essentially become an impenetrable barrier of asphalt and rolling steel, trapping once proud and explorative mountain lions to a small and limited habitat since as early as the 1960s.

And that is a huge problem for these local cats, who have overpopulated the mountain for decades. Mountain lions traditionally boast wide territorial ranges in order to avoid resource competition and to encourage genetic diversity. However, in the case of a fractured and isolated habitat like Santa Monica, local lions will turn to rampant inbreeding and patricide to survive.

One brave mountain lion known to experts as P-22 was likely the second to ever escape this indisputably hellish world, successfully crossing the freeways to be discovered making a home by the Griffith Park "Hollywood" sign in 2012.

Now two more lions have managed the same feat, crossing the 101 Freeway in search of new homes and unrelated mates.

Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, recently told the Los Angeles Daily News that male mountain lion P-32 was observed following his sister, P-33, across the 101, the Ventura Freeway. And while P-33 stopped her progress soon after, P-32 pressed on, daring State Route 23 in March.

Interestingly, all three of the animals are suspected to be related - a fact that really should come as no surprise from Santa Monica, where inbreeding is rampant. However, what is most intriguing is that the siblings happen to be the children of the mountain lion known as P-12 - suspected to be the first mountain lion to cross the freeways. However, unlike P-22, experts quickly lost track of the male. One of P-12's first offspring also attempted the feat, but was struck by a car. (Scroll to read on...)

P-32 and mother P-19 feast on a fresh kill while P-33 lounges in the background.
(Photo : Courtesy of National Park Service) P-32 and mother P-19 feast on a fresh kill while P-33 lounges in the background.

It also remains unclear exactly where P-22 fits into the picture, but it may be that there is a strong urge for pioneering in these lions' otherwise muddled bloodline.

Check out a great info-graphic of P-12s relations via the Los Angeles Times' Javier Zarracina here.

"They seem pretty motivated to go somewhere else," Rieley added for the Daily News. "It's a pretty impressive thing."

Ranger Kate Kuykendall, spokeswoman of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, added in an interview with the LA Times that this is especially good for P-32.

"Being a young mountain lion, especially being a mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains, is not easy," she said.

Kuykendall explained that had he stayed, P-32 would have likely died very prematurely, either at the hand of a competing family or even his own siblings, in a battle for supremacy and very limited resources. He could have even been killed or driven away by his own sons looking to mate with their mother - a common Oedipus-like outcome in the mountains.

Thankfully, it seems that tragedy won't come to pass. The success stories of these lions are also helping to bring awareness to the Santa Monica Mountain's plight - a boon for the $4 million fund-raising campaign to have a special freeway overpass built to bridge the gap between the isolated habitat and the rest of California.

"It's expensive, it's gonna take some time, but I think it would be an amazing statement about wildlife and conservation in the second-largest metropolitan area in the country," Riley added in a past interview with NPR. "Everyone that would drive that freeway would see, 'Wow, they put something over this freeway specifically for wildlife.'"

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

- follow Brian on Twitter @BS_ButNoBS

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