Puma killed in Santa Monica sheds light on California mountain lion population

A California mountain lion.
A California mountain lion.
CaliforniaDFG/ Flickr (cc by-nc-nd)

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National Park Service biologists say new genetic information from the puma killed in Santa Monica last month sheds light on the health of the mountain lion population in the region.

The fast pace of Southern Californians and their cars can cramp mountain lions into a smaller region than they’d prefer. Park Service biologists only know of one puma that has crossed the 101 Freeway, a cat they call P-12.

The mountain lion populations below and above that freeway are genetically distinct. But new DNA results reveal that the young male lion found in Santa Monica had a genetic connection to the population north of the freeway.

Biologists speculate that the Santa Monica lion was the son of P-12, the intrepid freeway-crosser. Or he could have crossed the freeway too.

But the new information suggests that the two populations may have mixed in recent years, in ways biologists don’t yet understand. That’s good news for biodiversity.

Mountain lions without enough range fight and kill each other. Inbreeding also threatens their survival.