For the first time, scientists in the Santa Monica Mountains are now tracking a third adult male — and he's a big one. P-45, as they now call him, was captured and tagged on November 21. He weighed 150 pounds at the time he was tagged and collared, and that's bigger than all of the cats studied in the mountain range except for P-1, the big guy that got this all started.
Researchers are trying to figure out what to make of P-45. From the National Park Service release:
“During the course of our study, we’ve only been aware of one or two adult males at any given time in the Santa Monica Mountains.” said Jeff Sikich, biologist for the National Park Service. “We’re very interested to learn whether there are now three adult males or whether P-45 successfully challenged one of his competitors.”
Because the local population is hemmed in by freeways and male mountain lions are extremely territorial, researchers believe the Santa Monica Mountains can only support one or two adult males.
P-27, estimated to be eight years old, is a male that spends the majority of his time on the eastern end of the mountains. The fate of P-12, an adult male researchers first collared in 2008, is unclear. Though his radio collar stopped working a few years ago, he was photographed by a remote camera as recently as this March. He has also fathered several litters of kittens in recent years.
P-45 weighed 150 pounds at his capture, which is more than any other mountain lion during the study, with the exception of P-1, who also weighed 150 pounds. He was captured in the central portion of the Santa Monica Mountains and outfitted with a GPS collar.
Since Sikich began tracking P-45 on November 21, he has spent most of his time on the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains, sticking to some of the area’s most undeveloped areas.
As a previously unknown animal, it is hoped that DNA tests will shed light on how P-45 ended up in the Santa Monica Mountains and how he might be related to other animals in the study.
The National Park Service began studying mountain lions in and around the Santa Monica Mountains in 2002. The purpose of the study is to determine how they survive in a highly fragmented urban environment.
Scientists are currently tracking 11 animals in the region.