LA Gets Early Christmas Gift In The Form Of 2 New Mountain Lions, P-78 And P-79

Say hello to SoCal's newest mountain lions, P-78 and P-79. (Courtesy, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area/Facebook)

Christmas has come early for Southern California wildlife enthusiasts in the form of two new mountain lions.

On Tuesday, Angela Beatriz Cholo, a ranger with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, introduced via Facebook P-78 and P-79 to greater L.A. and to wildlife officials' study of big cats in the region.

Officials found both cats within a day of each other. P-78, a "subadult male," was captured Dec. 11, in the Santa Monica Mountains. P-79, another young male, was spotted and captured in the backyard of a home on Dec. 12.

Both were outfitted with GPS collars and released. P-78 will roam the Santa Monica Mountains, and P-79 will roam the Santa Susana Mountains, according to the Facebook post.

As their designated numbers suggest, P-78 and P-79 are the 78th and 79th mountain lions to join the study overall. Last month, P-77 was captured and tagged in the Santa Monica Mountains. In June, officials captured P-75 in a mobile home park in Pacific Palisades, outfitted her with a tracking collar and released her into the Santa Monica Mountains.

Despite these additions, Southern California's puma population has suffered in recent decades due to habitat loss and inbreeding.

Three big cats were found dead this year. P-53, a 4-year-old female lion, and P-30, a 6-year-old male, had traces of rat poison in their bodies. P-61, a 4-year-old male, died after being hit by a car on the 405 in the Sepulveda Pass area. Researchers think he may have been running from an uncollared puma at the time.

Like her fellow big cats, P-77 has a lot to contend with. There are turf wars with other mountain lions. There's the risk of getting hit by a vehicle while trying to cross freeways, which limit mating opportunities and decrease the genetic diversity of the local mountain lion population. Then there's the risk of mange. Plus, these big cats have to contend with rat poison and other chemicals introduced into the food chain by humans, who are the worst.

Reporter Ryan Fonseca contributed to this story.