The debate in Los Angeles of what to do about the nearby mountain lion population is nowhere near being solved, but if wildlife ecologists at UCLA and with the National Park Service (NPS) are correct then the predators may not be roaming the Santa Monica Mountains much longer.
The L.A. Times reports a study was published this week in the Royal Society B by John Benson and colleagues of the UCLA La Kretz Center for California Conversation Science that stated L.A.’s mountain lion population is at risk of going extinct in the next 50 years.
The Times reports Benson and his team used 13 years of tracking and genetic data from the NPS to conclude their hypothesis.
Findings were reported as the population currently being stable with the potential of grown in the next 25 years, The Times reports, but with a population of 15 and the habitat being between two major highways there’s a 15 to 20 percent risk of extinction looking long term.
“If it just so happens one month that one gets hit by a car and one dies of rodenticide poisoning, then all of a sudden you’re out of males,” study coauthor Seth Riley told The Times.
Another risk for the mountain lions, the newspaper reports, is inbreeding. The 150,000-acre habitat is centered around a developing area and is next to the 10-lane 101 Freeway, making it nearly impossible for any males to migrate to the area. The study concluded inbreeding could lead to inbreeding depression, which The Times reports raised the percentage of possible extinction to 99.7 percent.
The newspaper reports the concept of importing new mountain lions, similar to what was done in Florida with panthers, was introduced, but the idea didn’t go far because the habitat area is simply too small. Overall, it’s not looking good for the predators. The Times writes the NPS has kept a close watch on the Santa Mountain Mountains since 2002 and only one newcomer has entered the area.