Almost a month ago, a mountain lion trying to cross Hwy 101 near Liberty Canyon Road was struck and killed by an early morning commuter. Due to the Government shutdown, it was unknown at the time which of the dozen or so lions living in the Santa Monica Mountains had died. This small population of lions is being researched by the US National Park Service (NPS).
Recently obtained DNA results now show that the mountain lion killed was new to the Santa Monica Mountains.
According to the NPS, Santa Monica's mountain lions are isolated from the rest of California's lions because of freeways, mountains, and the Pacific Ocean. The potential for inbreeding within the small, separated population created by these obstructions makes it crucial for new lions to be able to safely cross into the area.
According to witnesses, the dead lion was found on the southbound side of the freeway and had tried to cross from the north. If this lion had successfully crossed the freeway and mated, he would have brought much-needed new genetic material to the region's lion population.
For years, local wildlife advocates have lobbied for a wildlife corridor to be constructed at Liberty Canyon. "The fact that this young male chose to cross — unsuccessfully — at Liberty Canyon shows how critical this wildlife corridor is for maintaining genetic diversity in the Santa Monica Mountains. This section of the 101 Freeway is the ideal path into the Santa Monica Mountains because of the natural habitat on both sides of the freeway and the connections to large areas of open space," said Dr. Seth Riley, a researcher with the National Park Service studying mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Of more than 30 lions tracked during the decade-long National Park Service study, only one (P-12) is known to have successfully crossed Hwy 101. Caltrans has twice applied for federal transportation funding, but so far has failed to win approval for the projected $10 million construction project. Caltrans is expected to apply once again in early 2014.