Park service: P-45 alpaca kills not 'abnormal or aberrant'

p-45-smmnra.jpgP-45 last year. National Park Service photo.

In response to the news that a state permit was granted to hunt and kill one of the Santa Monica Mountains pumas it studies, the National Park Service put out a statement of condolence on Tuesday "to those who have lost a pet or animal as a result of being preyed upon by native wildlife. This is extremely unfortunate for everyone."

The statement says, however, that killing P-45 will not solve the problem of domestic animals being preyed upon by mountain lions in the Santa Monicas. At least four of the local lions have killed livestock in the past year, the park service letter says.

P-45 has been blamed for the weekend deaths of at least 11 alpacas in the western Santa Monica Mountains. Ten of those animals were killed at one ranch.

I had wondered in yesterday's post and on Twitter why a puma would kill 10 alpacas in one spree — much more prey than is necessary for feeding. When one of the local lions kills a deer, for instance, I gather that the feeding on a single deer takes place over more than one day. Today's statement from the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area addresses the issue — basically it's because the lion is a predator and the alpacas are trapped in an enclosure and can't run away.

The solution is keeping ranch animals and pets in lion-proof enclosures, says park service spokesranger Kate Kuykendall.

Here is the entire statement.

We extend our condolences to those who have lost a pet or animal as a result of being preyed upon by native wildlife. This is extremely unfortunate for everyone.

Our partners at the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) have issued a permit, as they are required under state law, for the mountain lion known as P-45 to be killed within 10 days. Although we conduct research on the local mountain lion population, CDFW is responsible for managing the state's wildlife.

We respect the legal process that is currently underway, but also suggest that we all need to work together in the future to ensure that pets and livestock are safe and that mountain lions can continue to roam in the Santa Monica Mountains, as they have done for millennia. To that end, we are co-hosting a workshop tomorrow night with CDFW (http://bit.ly/2faU2sF) that will offer simple and affordable solutions to protect animals in safe enclosures. We have worked with a number of landowners in the past to develop solutions that have successfully protected goats and alpacas.

The only long-term solution to keeping mountain lions in these mountains is mountain-lion proof enclosures for otherwise defenseless animals. Eliminating P-45 does not solve the problem, especially given there are at least four mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains that have killed livestock over the past year. Nor is P-45's behavior abnormal or aberrant in any way, even if the number of animals killed is large. In a typical natural setting, animals flee from a mountain lion attack, but if animals are stuck in an unsecured pen, a mountain lion's natural response can be to prey upon all available animals.

We look forward to working with local residents and our partners to keep pets and livestock safe and also to keep these mountains wild.

Kate Kuykendall
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
National Park Service

P-45 was first tagged by researchers in late 2015 as a fully grown male — only the third adult male that was recognized in the western Santa Monicas. P-12 no longer wears a working collar but park service researchers believe he is still alive and fathering new cub litters. P-27 is a male who inhabits territory further east and keeps his distance from P-12. The park service also monitors P-22, the often-photographed male who lives off by himself in the canyons of LA's municipal Griffith Park.

The park service, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Mountain Lion Foundation are meeting with residents on Wednesday night at Paramount Ranch above Agoura Hills in hopes of avoiding any more lion conflicts.

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