The Newest Addition to LA Wildlife


Noelle Natividad, Staff Writer

In the wilderness of the stunning Santa Monica Mountains, cougar cubs P-59 and P-60 are occupying the space bordering the concrete jungle.

The brother and sister pair was discovered by the National Park Service in late August and made a number of headlines throughout Southern California as news of the species’ newest litter of cubs were added to the population count. Biologists throughout the region are looking in-depth into their ancestry and what this may mean for the wildlife in this area.

Park Service told the Los Angeles Times that “the cubs’ mother is two-year-old P-53, the youngest female in the Park Service’s wild animal study in the Santa Monica Mountains.” However, it is P-59 and P-60’s paternity that seems to indicate a problem. They reported, “It’s the mountain lion who mated with P-53 that poses a long-term concern for the health of the cougar population, the Park Service said. Officials believe the father of the cubs is P-12, who also mated with P-53’s mother, P-23, and P-23’s mother, P-19, and P-19’s mother, P-13.”

Jeff Sikich, a biologist working at the Santa Monica Mountains, said, “If P-12 is in fact these kittens’ father, that also means he’s their grandfather, their great-grandfather and their great-great-grandfather. Inbreeding to this degree really highlights the need for providing safe passage across the 101 Freeway so new mountain lions can enter the population and breed.”

Controversy ensued with the birth of these new kittens because of P-12’s number of offspring which generates the lack of genetic diversity present in this specific population. A number of biologists hail P-12 as “a genetic rescue,” while others find the need for a wildlife crossing to be built “over U.S. Highway 101 so other mountain lions can reach the range unhindered and increase genetic diversity in the population.”

Park Services has been studying the mountain lion population “in and around the Santa Monica Mountains since 1966 to determine how they can survive in an increasingly fragmented and urbanized environment.”