By Edwin Folven, 8/16/2012
Biologists are studying the lion’s behavior
Hiking in Griffith Park has been a little treacherous over the past 10 days due to the extreme heat. Now trekkers have another thing to worry about: a mountain lion.
U.S. National Park Service (NPS) biologists are tracking the mountain lion that was first observed in February when a camera positioned in a remote area of the park east of the Cahuenga Pass captured a photograph of the animal. NPS biologists later tracked down the mountain lion, sedated it and fitted it with a collar with a global positioning unit so they could track its movement. Since then, the collar has stopped working, so biologists are tracing the cougar using radio technology that is far less accurate as to its location.
NPS spokesperson Kate Kuykendall said the plan is to eventually recapture the mountain lion and refit it with a new GPS device. She said authorities believe it is the only mountain lion currently living in Griffith Park, and that “mountain lions are very solitary animals.” However, she cautioned anyone who sees the mountain lion to give him space.
“It’s the only one we know of [in Griffith Park]. I’d be very surprised if there was another one,” Kuykendall said. “We are currently tracking seven mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains and the surrounding area, but this is the only one pushing out beyond the borders of the 101 or 405 freeways.”
Authorities believe the lion must have passed the boundary created by the freeways using a bridge, underpass or culvert, but Kuykendall could not rule out the possibility that the three-year-old male actually crossed a freeway.
“We’ve had mountain lions killed trying to cross the freeway before,” she added.
Biologists also believe the mountain lion’s arrival in Griffith Park is natural, as male mountain lions often branch out into new territory in search of a mate or food. Kuykendall said the cat is likely eating deer, which are plentiful in the park.
Tracking the mountain lion can provide information about how the animals move about in a certain region. Kuykendall said adult male mountain lions need approximately 150 to 200 square miles of territory to survive, and that the entire Santa Monica Mountains region can only sustain approximately 10 to 15 lions.
“They will kill each other over territory,” Kuykendall added.
The mountain lion has been tracked around the western portion of the park near the Cahuenga Pass, and on the north side of the mountains above Travel Town. There is no evidence he has been near the more populated areas on the eastern side of the park. Ranger Josh Ornelas, who is stationed at Griffith Park, said rangers have been aware of it for months, and encouraged anyone who has an encounter to report it at (323)644-6661.
Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District, has been an avid hiker in Griffith Park for years, and added that mountain lions are part of the natural landscape.
“[He] reminds us of the power of our urban wilderness, but he shouldn’t dissuade anyone from safely hiking Griffith Park, just like I do every morning,” LaBonge added.