Environment & Science

Mountain lions were big news in 2015

Mountain lion P-22 coughs up a hairball from the deer he's eating.
Mountain lion P-22 coughs up a hairball from the deer he's eating.
National Park Service via Flickr

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Mountain lions in the Los Angeles County area grabbed several headlines in 2015, due largely to an unprecedented number of animals that researchers were able to capture and monitor through GPS collars.

“We’ve had more animals collared in the last year or two than we’ve ever had before,” said Seth Riley, wildlife ecologist for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Riley said the higher number of monitored animals made it more possible for researchers to observe behaviors they may otherwise have not been able to.

“The truth is the animals are out there doing their thing: living, dying, dispersing, reproducing. We just happened to have recorded a bunch of interesting instances in the last year or so,” Riley said.

He said his favorite discoveries of the year were made possible because researchers had previously been able to collar three siblings from the same litter.

“Those were all really interesting. All three of them have done really interesting things. Two of them died in ways that were interesting,” Riley said.

Two of the siblings, P-32 and P-33 crossed over the 101 Freeway within a month of each other. They were the first known cougars to have done so in more than a decade.

P-32 crossed several freeways in his travels but ended up dying after being struck by a vehicle along the 5 Freeway.

P-34, the collared-sibling that remained in the Santa Monica Mountains, later died --  the victim of rodenticide poisoning.

While reducing the prevalence of toxics in the environment would help, Riley said the long-term survival of Southern California's cougar population mainly depends on improving the ability of the animals to travel in and out of the isolated range. Currently, the cougars are becoming increasingly inbred as a result of being hemmed in by freeways.

This year, efforts to put in a wildlife crossing over the 101-Freeway at Liberty Crossing in Agoura Hills advanced farther than ever. Project leaders released a report detailing a $30-50 million bridge over the highway in early September.

2015 Mountain Lion Timeline: