LA's mountain lions could go extinct in the near future

Mountain lions call the Santa Monica Mountains home, but that could change in the next handful of decades or sooner. According to the National Park Service and a study it did with researchers from UCLA, Utah State University, and UC Davis, LA's mountain lions may fall victim to their lack of genetic diversity, something stemming from their geographical isolation. The mountain lions' unique location (near such a massive city) has also spurred the development of atypical behaviors.

The Santa Monica mountain lions are isolated from other mountain lion populations due to the nearby freeways, the overall megacity that is Los Angeles, and the ocean. This isolation has caused a lot of inbreeding among the big cats, and the resulting lack of genetic diversity is taking its toll. Unusual behaviors observed in these cats include fights and killings among themselves, which are unusual, as well a heightened sensitivity to individual behaviors among other lions.

According to the latest study involving these big cats, researchers concluded there is a 99.7-percent chance of extinction if genetic diversity isn't improved. Many have been calling for a wildlife crossing built over the freeway that would allow the mountain lions to pass over and into other terrains, mating with other mountain lions outside of their groups.

A project is currently underway that aims to build this needed wildlife overpass, but it is estimated to cost between $50 and $60 million, the funds for which will come from private sources. At this point, the National Wildlife Federation has managed to raise $1.2 million toward the cause, but has to hit at least the $10 million mark by early next year for the project to stay on course.

Failing to build this wildlife crossing could mean mountain lion extinction in the region within the next 50 years.


Image via National Park Service