Looks like P-22 — the famed mountain lion of Griffith Park — has some competition for the imagination of wildlife-loving Southern Californians.
Researchers reported Friday they had caught and tagged an adult male mountain lion living in the Verdugo Mountains north of Glendale.
Known as P-41 — short for "Puma 41" — the 130-pound male was captured on May 7, marking the first time a mountain lion has been studied in the isolated mountain range since biologists with the National Park Service began researching the local puma population in 2002.
Based on his body size and evidence of wear on his teeth, P-41 is estimated to be 8 years old. Biologists outfitted him with a GPS collar and took blood and tissue samples before releasing him back into the Verdugos.
Researchers think he either came from the Santa Monica Mountains or the San Gabriel Mountains, which rise just north of the Verdugos on the other side of the 210 Freeway.
Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with the National Park Service, said monitoring P-41 could help resolve the question of how he reached the Verdugos, a relatively small island of open space hemmed in on all sides by urban sprawl and hillside neighborhoods.
"We hope to learn more about landscape connectivity and movement corridors in the region," Riley said. "There's really no way to fully understand and conserve mountain lions ... without understanding their movements across the larger landscape."
Genetic information from P-41 could also help pinpoint his provenance since scientists believe there is significant genetic differentiation between mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains and those in the San Gabriels.
P-41 marks the 11th puma to be collared and tracked by park service researcher. The map below shows the location where the big cats were initially captured.
Researchers with the National Park Service are currently tracking 11 mountain lions in the region. Courtesy of the National Park Service.
It's unclear whether P-41 will stay in the Verdugos. The mountains' 19 square miles of open space are a relatively small home range for an adult male mountain lion, which typically roams an area roughly 13 times larger.
That said, Griffith Park's P-22 has been living in just 8 square miles, which is believed to be the smallest home range of any adult male mountain lion ever recorded.
Though both P-22 and P-41 are living near populated areas, researchers are quick to point out that mountain lions are usually solitary animals and hardly ever seen. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has posted tips for people living in mountain lion country.