Last month a young mountain lion was roadkilled while trying to cross the 405 freeway in southern California. He was just one of a handful of lions left in the Santa Monica Mountain range (see full story). The incident caught the attention of local residents and numerous news outlets. People want to know what is being done to save these lions. Without corridors to connect their habitat and underpasses to help them cross freeways, roadkill, inbreeding, and intraspecies conflict (lions killing other lions for territory) will continue to threaten their survival. Noaki Schwartz of the Associated Press investigated these issues further in her recent newspaper article, "L.A.'s urban cougars under siege." She interviewed MLF's executive director Tim Dunbar, National Park Service's Santa Monica Mountains lion researcher Jeff Sikich, and Caltrans' senior environmental planner Barbara Marquez. Unfortunately, even with all these experts involved, the future still does not look good for lions in southern California. Habitat is shrinking and the long-term survival of Santa Monica's mountain lions may now hinge on a multimillion dollar grant for underpass construction work.
To make matters worse and even more depressing, not long after the roadkill incident, the last male lion in the Santa Monica Mountains with a functioning tracking collar was found dead. The seven-year-old tom had been killed and mutilated by a poacher. The illegal killing of a mountain lion in California is punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail. But in this region where every single lion is crucial to the species' survival, that sentence hardly seems severe enough. Researchers know there are a few uncollared lions in the region and hope there is another male left (or one capable of crossing a major freeway to get there). Otherwise, this may very well prove to be the last generation of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Anyone with information about the poaching of this lion is urged to call the anonymous tipline at 888-334-2258.