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Climate and Environment

P-22's Fate Is Uncertain, And So Is The Overall Future For LA’s Mountain Lion Population

An adult mountain lion walks in a grassy clearing at night with several mountain lion kittens behind her.
P-65 and her kittens. P-65 died away from complications related to mange in 2022.
(Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area)
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Earlier this week, P-22 — one of LA’s most famous mountain lions — was tranquilized, and taken in for a health assessment. And while it’s still unclear what’ll happen to Griffith Park’s most famous resident, we wanted to check in on how things are going for the rest of the mountain lions in the area.

Current Conditions

Mountain lions are doing fine in some parts of the state, but here in the Santa Monica Mountains, they’re struggling.

One reason – development. It limits the amount of land that they have to live on and our freeways and roads keep them from migrating to other areas.

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Another major concern is the small size of the population in Southern California. There are only an estimated 10-15 adult mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountain area, according to the National Park Service. That means inbreeding is a major issue. Inbreeding has all sorts of detrimental effects, including physical abnormalities and decreased fertility.

And with a population already so small, that threatens the existence of the big cats here.

“If kitten survival goes down or reproduction goes down then we can lose those populations," said Winston Vickers, who directs the UC Davis Mountain Lion Project.

What's Next

Still, Vickers says he remains optimistic.

Special wildlife crossings — like the massive crossing underway in Agoura Hills to span the 101 — can make it easier for mountain lion populations to mix.

And we could still bring in other mountain lions to boost the gene pool, as was done for the Florida Panther.

Go Deeper

Learn more about the ambitious plans to build the world’s largest wildlife crossing in Agoura Hills.

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Jacob Margolis helps Southern Californians understand the science shaping our imperfect paradise and gets us prepared for what’s next.