Mountain lions living in Greater Los Angeles could be at risk of extinction within the next 50 years if the population remains isolated by freeways and other forms of human development, UCLA and National Park Service wildlife ecologists are warning.
About 15 pumas survive in the Santa Monica Mountains, cut off from the rest of their species by a host of man-made obstructions. With almost no new cats able to enter the area, the gene pool among local lions has stagnated — and without more genetic diversity, they will be vulnerable to extinction.
In a study published this week in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, wildlife ecologist John Benson of the UCLA La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science and his colleagues used 13 years of tracking and genetic data from the National Park Service to estimate the odds that the mountain lions will survive long term in the Santa Monica range.
The results offer good and bad news for the big cats, which inhabit a 150,000-acre region bounded by the 101 and 405 freeways to the north and east and agricultural fields in Oxnard to the west.
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