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Map: Where the Mountain Lions Live in the Santa Monica Mountains

View a high resolution version of this map here | Courtesy of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, National Park Service
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Since 2002, the National Park Service has been tracking Mountain Lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, studying their movements, pinpointing their ranges and observing how human development impacts their population. Twelve have been tracked in that time with some remarkable finds.

In March, one tagged and collared in the Simi Hills last December made his way across the 101 freeway in the Liberty Canyon area, causing excitement through the Park Service. This was big news for Wildlife Ecologist Seth Riley, who is in charge of tracking them because it was the first time since the program began that one had crossed the 101 Freeway. Unlike the 118 Freeway between the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains, where they can cross with ease via a tunnel for hikers, the 101 provides no such linkage.

"This is an area we've been concerned about for a long time," explained Riley of LIberty Canyon. "It is the last place along the 101 where there's natural habibat on both sides of the freeway, the last place with effective wildlife activity."

Basically, if strip malls and housing tracts were to come to the area, it could be devastating to the ecosystem. Broadscale connectivity is important for species and habitat, especially in light of climate change, which can prompt ranges for animals and plants to shift. If they can't shift, there's a potential for extinction at the local level and sometimes across the board as with the threat to Joshua Trees.