Mountain lions have clung on in the mountain range around Santa Monica, California for decades as a strange, wild throwback on the Los Angeles periphery. These ultra-resilient cats might be the most vicious creatures in LA, but according to new research, the mountain lions could be undone by the megacity’s notorious traffic.
‘The fact that lions in the Santa Monica Mountains are completely surrounded by roads and development likely leads to behaviours that would be rare or nonexistent if normal population and social processes could occur,’ said Seth Riley of the National Park Service.
These behaviours include close inbreeding and killing of offspring. Most young male mountain lions disperse as they age, but during the study period only one mountain lion escaped the lasso formed by the Route 101 freeway. The result is poor genetic diversity in the mountain lion population.
Riley is worried that poor forward planning will lead to tragic outcomes. ‘If wildlife connectivity is not considered and planned for in southern California, where it has mostly been lost,’ he said, ‘large carnivores, which exist at very low densities and need to move great distances, will not persist.’