LOS ANGELES – Three young mountain lions have been found dead in the mountains surrounding the Los Angeles area, highlighting the challenges the big cats face as they try to navigate the dangers of an urban landscape, wildlife officials said Friday.
The deaths cast a shadow over what has become a roller coaster cycle of good and bad news regarding the mountain lion population that has somehow taken root in the Santa Monica Mountain range, which folds into and around greater Los Angeles.
"If you’re a mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains, this is just not an easy place to grow up,” Seth Riley, wildlife ecologist for the National Park Service, said in a statement. "From our roads to rat poisons to potentially increased interactions with other mountains lions, it is very difficult for young animals to make it to adulthood, establish their own home range, and reproduce."
Mountain lion P-34
P-34's body was discovered on a hiking trail in Point Mugu State Park on Sept. 30. Wildlife officials said the animal appears to have died as a result of rodenticide poisoning.
The big cat gained fame on local news telecasts after hunkering down under a mobile home in Newbury Park.
But like many predators up the food chain, P-34 fell victim to consuming prey contaminated by poison.
Rodent control poisons have also been blamed for killing coyotes and are associated with a severe disease epidemic in bobcats, the National Park Service said.
P-34's sibling, P-32, was struck and killed in August while trying to cross a busy L.A. area freeway.
Mountain lion P-43 and sibling
When P-43 was discovered in the Santa Monica Mountain study area earlier this year, the photographs of her hiding in brush gave Los Angeles the feels. Likely, so will her death.
Her remains — as well as those of a previously unknown sibling — were discovered in a remote forest area. P-43 had been marked by biologists at three weeks old, and at the time was presumed to be the only kitten of the litter.
Forensic tests show P-43, just three months old, was killed along with her sibling and partially consumed by another animal, according to the park service. DNA testing at UCLA should reveal what killed them.
Both litters born to P-43's mother, P-23, have now been killed by other animals. Cases of infanticide are not uncommon among mountain lions that are hemmed in by Los Angeles' vast network of freeways, limiting their ability to establish territories large enough to avoid direct competition with each other and inbreeding.
Biologists are currently tracking 10 mountain lions across the greater Los Angeles area.