Left: NPS Biologist Jeff Sikich with mountain lion kitten, NPS photo
Upper right: Mountain lion kitten, NPS  Photo
Bottom right: Mountain lion, NPS Photo

In the fragmented urban landscapes of Southern California, mountain lions represent the ultimate challenge for wildlife conservation because of the huge amount of space that they need, their long dispersal movements, and their potential for conflict with humans. Because they are so wide-ranging, the study of mountain lion behavior and ecology can also provide valuable information about landscape connectivity, a critical factor for the conservation of many species in the face of barriers such as roads and development.

Beginning in 2002, with support from the California Department of Parks and Recreation, the NPS has been studying the behavior, ecology, and conservation of mountain lions in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and the surrounding region. The goals of our study are to:

  • Determine whether mountain lions are persisting in the Santa Monica Mountains, Simi Hills, and Santa Susana Mountains;
  • Estimate how much area they are using and how dense their populations are;
  • Evaluate if there is sufficient habitat and prey base to support survival and reproduction;
  • Determine if mountain lions successfully navigate around or across barriers such as roads and developed areas;
  • Investigate whether mountain lions are coexisting with people, pets, and livestock in urban areas and parks with significant recreation pressure; and
  • Assess prospects for long-term mountain lion viability in the region, including what mountain lions could indicate about the connectivity of remaining parklands across this ecologically diverse but fragmented landscape.

Beginning in the summer of 2002, following the confirmation of the presence of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains using remotely triggered cameras, trapping began on public lands with suitable habitat from Point Mugu State Park in the west to Topanga State Park in the east. See the links to learn more about what park biologists have found about mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains.