Born Into A World of Urban Hazards That Includes Freeways and Rat Poison

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Meet P-46 and P-47, the photogenic offspring of P-19, a female mountain lion who lives in the Santa Monica Mountains. (Picture: National Park Service)

They are amazingly cute and living in an environment that exposes them to urban dangers that include freeways and rat poison. Biologists from the National Park Service recently identified two mountain lion kittens in the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains. The female and male kittens, P-46 and P-47, were found in a den hidden among boulders and brush in a remote area.

“We continue to see successful reproduction, which indicates that the quality of the natural habitat is high for such a relatively urbanized area,” said Jeff Sikich, a biologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “But these kittens have many challenges ahead of them, from evading other mountain lions, to crossing freeways, to dealing with exposure to rat poison.”

Griffith Park in Los Angeles is famous for its resident mountain lion, P-22, who got into the urban park by crossing two incredibly busy freeways, the 405 and the 101, and surviving. “Boy, it’s hard to even imagine,” said Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with the National Park Service who spoke to the Los Angeles Times. P-22 made the news again when he became extremely ill after ingesting rat poison. He was captured, treated and released. Rat poison is a threat to wildlife. In 2004, two mountain lions and several bobcats were found to have died from internal bleeding from rodenticide poisoning, the NPS reported.

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P-22 as he looked after ingesting rat poison. He was captured, treated and released back into Griffith Park where he currently lives. (Picture: National Park Service)

Researchers have been tracking the mother, P-19, since 2010, when she was only a few weeks old. The small population of mountain lions is “essentially trapped on an island of habitat,” said Sikich, and have been killed by cars on highways and freeways. One partial solution is a proposed wildlife crossing over the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills that would connect large swaths of natural land from the Santa Monica Mountains to the Sierra Madres.

Rat poison is a threat to wildlife. In 2004, two mountain lions died from internal bleeding from rodenticide poisoning, the NPS reported.

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