Information about radiocollared mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, Pumas P01–P21

A photo of P01 at one of his captures. He is wearing a radiocollar in the photo and was recaptured to replace the collar.

P01  was the first mountain lion caught in the Santa Monica Mountains!  He was caught 5 times between 2002 and 2006.  He was one impressive animal!  He used almost the entirety of the Santa Monica Mountains south of the 101 Freeway and between Topanga State Park and Camarillo as his home range (see map below).  This size of home range area is not unusual for an adult male mountain lion.  He was known to mated and have kittens with at least 2 females, P02 and P06.  If you read about P06, you will notice that she is the daughter of P01.  In an area like the Santa Monica Mountains with the 101 Freeway creating a formidable barrier to movement for animals, it is not unusual that inbreeding would occur for such large carnivores with low population densities. The last time P01 was captured was in July, 2006 in Trancas Canyon area. His radiocollar prematurely failed shortly after that capture.

In February, 2009, there was a fight between 2 mountain lions reported to have occurred near a house that bordered open space in a residential area near Point Mugu State Park. A resident reported that he heard the interaction between the two lions during the night. National Park Service biologists were called to investigate the scene, and were able to determine that the fight started near a tree. They left the first tree where the fight started and climbed another tree, where they continued fighting. They jumped from the second tree and chased each other to the fence line of a nearby tennis court where they continued to fight.  A claw sheath was found in one of the trees where the fight started, and on the tennis court, there was also a stick with mountain lion hair and a rock with dried blood. P01's collar was also found, which was pulled off of P01 during what must have been a very intense fight.  

A map of P1's homerange. The blue dots represent actual GPS locations taken and the polygon representing his homerange is drawn around the dots. Notice that he uses nearly all of the Santa Monica mountains! 

Samples of the hair and blood were sent to the Robert Wayne Conservation Genetics Lab at UCLA for genetic analysis. Biologists at the lab employed forensic techniques to discover P01's DNA, along with DNA from another unknown mountain lion male in the hair and blood samples. One month later in March 2009, National Park Service biologists revisited the scene of the fight, and found a piece of lion scat (fecal material) near the fight area. The scat was also sent to the lab for genetic analysis, and found to be P01's. This was the last "hard" evidence biologists found of P01 still being alive and roaming the mountains. He survived after the fight for at least 1 month, long enough to revisit the area to mark his territory. Additionally, because P01 could have fathered some of our more recently captured mountain lions (e.g. P22– who was approximately 2-3 years old when captured in 2012), it is possible that P01 was alive as late as 2010. Now, however, we do not believe that he is still alive. We have not picked up an photo evidence of him on remote wildlife cameras set in the mountains, he would be very old at more than 12 years of age, and we have radiocollared other males since 2009 (such as P12) that use the home range we knew P01 to occupy.Click here to see one month's worth of movements for P01 in 2007.  These movements illustrate the value of the radio-collars we place on the animals to learn how they move across the landscape.  

A photo of P02 at her capture.

P02 was the second mountain that was captured in the Santa MonicaMountains. Like P01, she  was captured south of the 101-freeway.  She mated with P01 at least  once, and had at least one litter with him.  The kittens born of her litter with P01 were numbered P05-P08 (see below for more information).  National Park Service biologists were able to find P02's den after she had those kittens, P05-P08.  Biologists, along with wild animal veterinarian Lynn Whited, D.V.M., were able to outfit each kitten with radio-transmitter. Biologists were then able to then track P02 and her 4 kittens to learn about P02's movements while her kittens were young, along with learn about the movement patterns and dispersal of each kitten.  One thing that biologists were able to observe using this method is that when the kittens were approximately 11 months old, P02 expanded her range substantially (see map). 

A map of P02's home range, both before (solid line) and after (dotted line) she had kittens.  Notice the size difference!

Once the kittens were old enough to move with their mother, NPS biologists found them moving together.  In other words, when biologists remotely located P02 relying on her radio-collar signal, they were able to find the radio-signals of each kitten in the same area.  NPS biologists believe that P02's range expanded when the kittens were around 11 months old because P02 was presumably showing her kittens new areas before they were old enough to disperse and establish their own new territories.  More recently, biologists observed the same movement patterns for another female with 11-month old kittens, P13. 

A   map showing where the deadly battle between P01 and P02 occurred.  We   are unsure what started this fight, but P02 died as a result even  though  she was caring for P01's kittens at the time.

When P02's kittens were approximately 1-year old, P01 killed P02.  This type of aggression between mountain lions is not uncommon in the Santa Monica Mountains, and in fact is the number one source of mortality for mountain lions in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. NPS biologists are unsure what instigated the aggressive encounter between P01 and P02.  Several explanations could include that he (P01) was interested in a kill (deer) she (P02) made, that he wanted to mate with her again, or perhaps he viewed the kittens as competition and she was defending the kittens against him.  The kittens were still under mom's (P02) tutelage, and so their fate was questioned (see below for more information about what happened to these kittens).

A  picture of P03 at his first capture.  He was captured north of the  101-freeway and was one of two mountain lions to die of anticoagulant  poisoning in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

P03 was the first of 4 mountain lions have been captured north of the 101 Freeway for the ongoing National Park Service mountain lion research. This male mountain lion routinely used the Simi Valley and parts of the Santa Susanas for his home range, regularly crossing the 118 and 23 Freeways. This lion died directly of anticoagulant rat poison toxicity, one of two lions known to have died directly due to anticoagulant rat poison exposure. Biologists are unsure of how mountain lions are being exposed to anticoagulant rat poisons since they are unlikely to consume large numbers of small mammals like our other smaller carnivores (bobcats and  coyotes, for example). However, it is possible that this mountain lion was poisoned from eating a coyote that was secondarily poisoned, or that deer, the mountain lion's primary food source in the Santa Monica's, are directly eating poison baits and then poisoning the mountain lions. P03 was the son of P04.

P04 was another mountain lion captured north of the 101 that used the Simi Valley and Santa Susana Mountains. P04 was a female that routinely used the Santa Susanas. And like P03, this mountain lion was one of two mountain lions that died directly of anticoagulant rat poison toxicity. Through genetic testing, P04 was discovered to be the mother of P03.

A  photo of P02's litter and den site.  Mountain lions do not "build"    dens, but instead use areas naturally available like rock crevices to    protect their litter of young.

P05-P08: These were kittens born to P02 after mating with P01. Female mountain lions will care for their young until after the young are 1-year old. Typically, between 1-2 years old, the young will separate from the mother and seek their own territory. For males, it can take more than a year for them to establish what will be their 'home range.' When these kittens were nearly 1-year old, P01 killed P02. All four kittens managed to survive P02's death and disperse into different regions of the Santa Monica Mountains, establishing their own home ranges. See below for more information on each kitten's fate after P02 was killed.    

A map of P05's dispersal after his mother, P02, was killed by P01. P05 moved to the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains around Point Mugu State Park where he lived until he was killed by his father, P01. 

P05 was initially sampled and outfitted with a radio-transmitter as a month-old kitten. P05 was one of two males in a litter of kittens, parented by P01 (father) and P02 (mother). After P02 was killed by P01 (see above for more information), P05 dispersed to the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains around Point Mugu State Park. P05 was later recaptured and placed with a radiocollar. He was eventually killed by P01.

A   map showing the dispersal of P06.  She dispersed to the western end of  the Santa Monica Mountains staying within and near Point Mugu State  Park  and off of Mulholland near PCH.


P06 was initially sampled and outfitted with a radio-transmitter as a month-old kitten. P06 was one of two females in a litter of kittens, parented by P01 (father) and P02 (mother). P06 dispersed to the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains after P02 was killed. She was later recaptured and fitted with a radio-collar. Unfortunately, the radiocollar stopped working prematurely and biologists were unable to recapture her to fit her with a new radiocollar. NPS biologists are unsure whether she still roams the Santa Monica Mountains. She is known to have mated with P01, producing a litter of kittens that included P13. Genetic analysis to prove maternity and paternity was conducted in the Robert Wayne Lab at UCLA.  

A map of P07's dispersal route after P02, her mother, was killed.

P07 spent time in the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains between Point Mugu State Park and Malibu Creek State Park.  P07 was initially sampled and outfitted with a radio-transmitter as a month-old kitten. P07 was one of two females in a litter of kittens, parented by P01 (father) and P02 (mother). P07 used the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains, including Malibu Creek State Park. She was eventually killed by P01 near the Planet of the Apes rock wall in Malibu Creek State Park, a fight witnessed by local rock climbers! NPS biologists are unsure what instigated the aggressive encounter between P01 and P07, but they possibly fought over a kill (a deer that P07 killed to eat), or potentially because P01 was interested in mating with her. 

A map of the dispersal of P08.  He went east, settling into Topanga State Park and nearby areas including Tuna Canyon.

P08 was initially sampled and outfitted with a radio-transmitter as a month-old kitten.  P08 was one of two males in a litter of kittens, parented by P01 (father) and P02 (mother).  P08 preferred the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains and was frequently located in Topanga State Park and around Tuna Canyon.  P08 took after his father- he was the largest of the litter and seemed to be the toughest individual.  Biologists thought he would survive to adulthood.  However, P08 was eventually killed by what was then an unknown, uncollared mountain lion.  It was from P08's death, in fact, that we learned that another strong male mountain lion was in the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains! NPS biologists then set traps and caught P09, P08's killer.

P09 was a male mountain lion that lived in the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains around Topanga State Park and Tuna Canyon. His presence was discovered when he killed P08. Forensic genetic testing from wounds found on P08 confirmed that P08 was killed by an uncollared, male mountain lion. He was captured in Topanga State Park near Eagle Rock outlook. He was radio-collared and tracked for a very short time. He was hit and killed by a car on Las Virgenes during morning rush hour traffic. Genetic testing also revealed that he was the son of P01 and P02, although from a different litter than the litter that birthed P05-P08. But this means that P09 was brother to P08, and so P09 killed his own brother, although whether P09 recognized P08 as his brother is unknown,

P10 at his first capture in 2008.

P10 was a young male when he was caught in February, 2010, in the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains near the north entrance to Point Mugu State Park. His primary homerange area consisted of the central and western end of the Santa Monica Mountains around Malibu Creek and Point Mugu State Parks.  P10 was captured more than once as part of this study, once under remarkable circumstances in Pacific Palisades in the front yard of a residence. He was found lying in a bush in front of a residence early one morning by a National Park Service biologist who was tracking P10 that morning. He was likely exploring the residential area during the evening hours when he would be unseen by humans, and perhaps was stuck there when the sun rose. He hid in a bush in the front yard of a residence as he was making his way back to open space, and was too frightened to move from the bush during the daylight hours. 

National Park Service biologists were able to dart the mountain lion, collar him, and relocate him to nearby open space. This remarkable incident illustrates the manner in which young, subadult males learn the boundaries of their territories. Through the mountain lion research, NPS biologists have learned that mountain lions are periodically located in urban areas that border parkland. These urban location data points are more typical for young, subadult males. These young males learn the boundaries to their territories when they "bump" into those boundaries (urban areas or freeways). When caught in an urban region, these young males do not linger but prefer to move back into the natural parkland areas. 

He died in July 2010, and two months prior to his death, fought with another male, P15. NPS biologists were able to document this encounter between the mountain lions because their radio-collars recorded GPS data that showed that P10 and P15 were in the same location at the same time. Both males survived the fight. Biologists do not believe that P10 sustained life-threatening injuries that precipitated his death two months later. Although his body was recovered in a timely matter after his death (by honing in on a mortality signal emitted by his radio-collar), his body was too decomposed to diagnose his cause of death.   

Genetic testing revealed that P10 was the son of P01 and P06. Because P01 was the father of P06, P01 was both the father and grandfather of P10.  P10's siblings included P13, although they were not from the same litter.

A photo of P11 at his capture in February 2008.

P11 was caught a few days after P10 in the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains off of Mulholland Drive near the Pacific Coast Highway in February 2008.  His collared failed prematurely in November 2008.  Since that time, biologists have been unable to detect his presence in the mountains.  He was probably killed by another mountain lion either after his radio-collar failed, or perhaps the event even caused his radio-collar to fail. Genetic testing revealed that P01 was the father of P11, although P11's mother was never captured and sampled.

A remote camera photo of P12 at his first capture in the Simi hills in 2008. Since this photo he crossed the 101-freeway and now remains south of the freeway in the Santa Monica Mountains. 

P12 is male mountain lion caught in Palo Comado Canyon (in the Simi Valley north of the 101-Freeway). Biologists originally started following P12, with GPS-telemetry in the Simi Hills on the north side of the  101-freeway in December 2008. In early 2009, P12 crossed the 101-freeway in the Liberty Canyon area and has remained in the Santa Monica  Mountains since. He is the only radio-collared lion NPS biologists have followed in their 10 year study that has successfully crossed either of the major freeways  (101 Freeway or I-405) surrounding the Santa Monica Mountains. When he crossed the freeway from north to south, he brought with him unique genetic variation into the Santa Monica Mountains mountain lion population– a population that has very low genetic variation due to it's small size and because the 101 Freeway is a significant barrier to gene flow for the population. After crossing the 101 Freeway, he has remained in the Santa Monica Mountains. He primarily uses Malibu Creek State Park and Trancas Canyon areas. He is known to have mated with P13, fathering two litters of kittens (P17-P19 & P25-P26) with her. He has also mated with his daughter, P19, to produce kittens P23 and P24. This is the second instance of first-order inbreeding that has been observed in Santa Monica Mountains mountain lions. Genetic testing also revealed that he is the son of P21.

A photo of P13 captured in July 2009 near Point Mugu State Park. At the time of this picture she was a young female not yet fully grown. She has since grown into an adult mountain lion.

P13 was a young female when she was captured near the north end of Point Mugu State Park in 2008.  Her age was estimated to be between 1.5 and 2 years of age when she was captured.   P01 and P06 are the parents of P13, and because P01 is the father of P06, P13 is the result of a first-order inbreeding event between a father and a daughter.  As of September 2014, she still roams the mountains, and has had at least two litters of kittens in 2010 and 2012. Both litters of her kittens, through genetic analysis, were shown to be fathered by P12.  Her homerange is the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains, from Malibu Creek State Park to Point Mugu State Park.  For each litter, she gave birth to 3 kittens, though for each litter, only 2 of the 3 kittens survived to dispersal age. Once her kittens reached approximately 1 year of age, she expanded her homerange likely  to show her kittens potential territories for them before they disperse on their own. The video below shows her with one of her kittens from her 2012 litter feeding together on a deer. Read here for an LA Times article about her.

A photo of P14 in a tree during one of his captures. Mountain lions can, and will, climb trees.

A photo of P14 in a tree during one of his captures. Mountain lions can, and will, climb trees.

P14 was a young male captured initially in 2009.  His home range was primarily the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains around Topanga State Park and Tuna Canyon.  He was captured twice, first in August, 2009 and a second time in February, 2011.  He was killed in April, 2011 by an unknown mountain lion that lives in the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains.  National Park Service biologists recovered liver tissue from his body and had it tested for anticoagulant rat poisons.  Results of these tests indicate exposure to multiple anticoagulant rat poison compounds including brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difethialone, and diphacinone.  Given that he was exposed to four different compounds suggests that P14 was exposed to these poisons multiple times.  Genetic testing revealed that P14 was the brother of P11, P15, P20 and P22, and was fathered by P01 with an unknown female.

A photo of P15 at his first capture.

P15 was a male mountain lion first captured in February, 2010.  P15's home range was around the western region of the Santa Monica Mountains, such as Point Mugu State Park.  P15 is known to have had a fight with P10, though neither suffered severe injuries as a result of the encounter.  P15 was been captured 4 times because his radio-collars prematurely failed several times.  So, in order to maintain our ability to monitor his movements, we recaptured him in order to place new radio-collars on him. P15 was the brother of P11, P14, P20 and P22, although they were not all born in the same litter. P01 was P15's father.

P15 died in September 2011 when he was killed and mutilated by a private citizen who destroyed his radio-collar in the process. Since the mountain lion study began in 2002 in the Santa Monica Mountains, this has been our first and only known mortality due to poaching.  P15's body was left in a park area in Camarillo and discovered by hikers 2-3 weeks after his death. We were able to confirm P15's identity through genetic testing at the Robert Wayne lab at UCLA. The details of his mutilation have been withheld in the case that California Department of Fish and Game may be able to receive tips on the individual that killed P15 that will lead to an arrest. Mountain lions are a protected species in California, and harvesting individuals without a depredation permit issued by the State is illegal. We are still hoping that people will come forward with information. A reward of $11,700 is available for useful information. The hotline number to report information is (888) 334-2258. Click here to read more about it. 

A photo of P16 at his first capture in the Santa Susana Mountains.

P16 was a subadult male when he was captured in May 2010.  Mountain lions are considered 'subadult' when they are approximately 1.5-3 years old, and haven't yet mated with another mountain lion.  P16's home range is the far southeastern region of the Santa Susana Mountains in Lake Piru area in Los Padres National Forest.  He is the third mountain lion the National Park Service has captured north of the 101 Freeway.  Although he is far outside of the Santa Monica Mountains, he is included in this study as a "reference" for mountain lion behavior in a more remote, less fragmented landscape. Without data on his (and other mountain lions in that area) movement patterns and home range size, biologists would be unable to draw robust conclusions about how urbanization and habitat fragmentation are affecting mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, heavily impacted by urban development.

A photo of P16 at his last capture on January 31, 2014.  He was humanely captured to remove his radiocollar.

After collecting data on P16's movement patterns and home range size for nearly 4-years, biologists decided they'd collected sufficient data on this mountain lion.  On January 31, 2014, P16 was humanly recaptured to remove his radiocollar. At the time of this capture, he proved that he'd grown into one big adult male! He weighed in at 143 lbs! He is second in size (of the study mountain lions) only to P01- the first mountain lion captured as part of the National Park Service study. His radiocollar was successfully removed and biologists hope to place the radiocollar on another animal soon. Without a radiocollar, biologists will be unable to "keep track" of P16. Because he has established a home range in the Lake Piru area and is an established adult, biologists anticipate that he will remain in that area. 

Genetic testing revealed that P16 was fathered by P21 with an unknown female. P16 is also the half-brother of P12.

A photo of P18 as a 1-month old kitten. The photo was captured when biologists visited the den to outfit all three kittens with radio-transmitters.

P17-P19 are the kittens of female, P13, and male, P12.  They were born in April, 2010.  National Park Service biologists, along with veterinarian Lynn Whited, were able to find P13's den site when the kittens were approximately 1-month old. They approached the den when P13 was away from the den hunting, and they sampled the kittens and outfitted each with a radio-transmitter. Since the kittens have radio-transmitters, biologists are able to track their movements and learn about their development and age, whether they survive to adulthood, and their dispersal patterns.  

P17 died when she was approximately 3-months old after she was abandoned by her mother for unknown reasons.  Her body was recovered and a necropsy performed.  Her cause of death was starvation, and she was also exposed to anticoagulant rat poisons. She is the youngest mountain lion that has been documented to be exposed to rat poisons.  He exposure to the poisons was not likely linked to her death, however.  She did not appear to have other injuries that would have prevented her from eating food that her mother, P13, brought her.  One possible explanation for her death is that P13 is likely a first-time mother and was unable to care for 3 kittens simultaneously.  Or perhaps, the other kittens were stronger and able to keep up with their mother better.

On April 13th, 2011, National Park Service biologists humanely recaptured two of the mountain lion kittens originally tagged last year in 2010.  These kittens were the surviving P18 and P19.  The hope was that these  two cats would have grown enough to put radiocollars on them so that biologists can track them, continuing to monitor their development and behavior into adulthood.  However, at just 11 months old, these two young mountain lions were too young to place radiocollars on, since they appeared to be at a stage of development with rapid growth.  So, although biologists didn't radiocollar them at that capture event, the  good news was that they were healthy, and in seeing them again at that age, biologists learned a little more about the pace of development for mountain lions.

P18 dispersed from his mother’s home range in the Malibu Creek State Park area in mid-June 2011. He began slowly making his way east through the mountains. He was captured in early August and fitted with a GPS-capable radiocollar. Within several months, he made his way east to Topanga State Park area. Likely in an effort to find a territory of his own, free of other males, he tried to cross the I-405 where he was hit by a car near the Getty Center. At the time P18 tried, and failed, to cross the I-405, National Park Service biologists had followed 21 animals over this time with GPS and radio-telemetry and had never documented a radiocollared mountain lion successfully crossing the I-405. Biologists have no verified records of them on the east side of the I-405 within the Santa Monica Mountains between the I-405 and Griffith Park.

Mountain lions, like other  large carnivores, are a wide ranging species and required large areas of  open space to persist.  We have learned through our studies that  mountain lions will only persist in the Santa Monica Mountains if  connectivity remains between the Mountains and other large areas of open space such as the Santa Susana Mountains and ultimately the Los Padres national forest.  In the Santa Monica Mountains we have observed male mountain lions using the entire mountain range as their individual home  range from the I-405 to Camarillo.  Male lions are extremely territorial  and may fight to the death to defend their territory from other male  lions. There were at least 2 adult male lions in the mountains that biologists were following with GPS-telemetry, P18’s father P12 and P15, when P18 tried to cross the I-405. Biologists also had photographs of another potential male using the eastern end of the mountains.  P18 was likely trying to avoid these adult males and disperse into an open territory.

P19  is the only surviving mountain lion from the litter of kittens (P17-P19) born to P13, and fathered by P12.  At just over a year and half in age, she was undergoing her final growth spurt.  She was fitted with a radiocollar the previous fall, so biologists wanted to check that she wasn't quickly outgrowing the old radiocollar. In September 2012, P19 produced a litter of kittens, fathered by her father, P12.  This is the second case of first-order inbreeding documented in the Santa Monica mountain lion population. The kittens, P23 and P24, show no obvious signs of health consequences associated with inbreeding.

A photo of P20 at his capture in Malibu Creek State Park. The blow dart was just injected and is visible in the picture. 

P20 was a young male mountain lion captured in Malibu Creek State Park in October, 2010.  He was an unexpected capture, and in fact, biologists were hoping instead to recapture P12!  P20 was tracked for only a very short period of time before he was killed by an uncollared male in the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains (near Topanga). The uncollared male mountain lion that killed P20 also killed P14.  P20 was the fathered by P01 although his mother was an unknown female lion in the Santa Monica Mountains. P20 was the brother of P11, P14, P20 and P22, though whether any of them were in the same litter is unknown.

P21 was caught May 4, 2011 in the Santa Susana Mountains as part of ongoing National Park research on local mountain lion populations extending from the Santa Monica Mountains north to the southern end of  the Santa Susana Mountains.  The National Park Service has captured and radiocollared 4 mountain lions in the Santa Susana mountains since 2002.  P21, an adult male, was estimated to be approximately 6-years old and looked to be in excellent health.  He had a wound on his chin that biologists guessed he sustained while hunting a male deer with antlers that could have inflicted the wound. Biologists administered antiseptic and antibiotics to aid in the  mountain lion's healing from the injury.