Since 2002, National Park Service scientists have been studying mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains and surrounding region. This is one of the longest, continuous urban mountain lion studies.
Each study cat is identified with a P, which stands for Puma, and then the corresponding number indicating the order in which they became part of the study.
When each cat is captured, a full work-up is performed that includes collecting biological samples, taking body measurements, recording weight, attaching an ear tag, conducting a physical exam, and fitting a GPS radio-collar on subadult and adult mountain lions that will monitor their movements.
We never know exactly how many mountain lions are living in our region, but we study approximately a dozen at a time. Mountain lions are territorial, have a range up to 200 square miles, and require ample acreage to find sufficient food and mates. The Santa Monica Mountains (west of the 405 and south of the 101 Freeways) can support between 10 to 15 adult and subadult lions. This number does not include kittens.
Very little is known about the average lifespan of mountain lions in the wild. In captivity, mountain lions have been known to live up to 20 years of age but in the wild 12 years old is a very old cat.
What we’ve learned
You can read about each mountain lion in the study through the “Puma Profiles” below. While it’s interesting to learn about individual cats, the real scientific value comes from the trends and issues that emerge when you study one species over time. Here are some of the stories we’ve uncovered: