Friday, February 28, 2020
Feb. 28, 2020

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Park service tracks mountain lion

P-80 captured, collared in Santa Monica Mountains

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LOS ANGELES — She’s a good-sized cat with greenish eyes that, based on her head shot, reveal the intensity of a predator who does not like to be detained, even for a moment.

She has a name — P-80 — and she is the latest mountain lion to join the National Park Service study of pumas that live in and around the Santa Monica Mountains.

The park service said Wednesday that researchers had outfitted P-80 with a GPS radio collar, which will allow them to track her daily movements.

The cougar, weighing 82 pounds and thought to be about 6 years old, was captured in the central Santa Monica Mountains in the Woolsey fire burn area.

She left the burn perimeter shortly after her capture, and biologists are eager to learn about her home range and to which cats she is related. P-80, who was in good condition, appeared to have lactated in the past, meaning she probably has had a previous litter, according to the park service.

Since 2002, the National Park Service has monitored more than 75 mountain lions in and around the Santa Monica Mountains, studying how the catamounts live in an urbanized landscape that’s increasingly fragmented by roads and development.

The discovery of P-80 in the Woolsey fire scar was much-needed good news for the cats and their surveyors. Researchers have said that two mountain lions, P-64 and P-74, were probably killed as a result of the Woolsey fire.

The body of P-64 — nicknamed “the Culvert Cat” for his expertise in using a storm drain to cross under the 101 Freeway several times — was found in early December. His paws were severely burned.

When the fire ignited Nov. 8, P-64 was in the Simi Hills, north of Oak Park, an area that was overtaken by flames overnight as the blaze charged toward the Pacific Ocean.

“He basically had two options,” wildlife biologist Jeff Sikich, who studied P-64 closely, told the Los Angeles Times in December. “He either had to enter an urban area that had many firefighters, loud fire engines and people fleeing and a lot of noise, or retreat onto the burned landscape.”

P-64 continued traveling throughout the Simi Hills before hiding away in a remote area. He was about 4 years old when he died.

P-74, a young male lion who probably hadn’t dispersed from his mother, is believed to have died in the fire. The last GPS point recorded from his collar was at 1 p.m. Nov. 9, about 24 hours after the fire started, in a remote area of the Santa Monica Mountains between Yerba Buena Road and Mulholland Highway. It was the same day that the Woolsey fire moved into the central portion of the mountains.

At the time, ecologists noted that nearly all of the radio-collared mountain lions turned up outside the fire’s burn area. But, as one ecologist said, it was unclear whether those pumas were already outside the zone or “outran the fire to safer conditions.”

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