The Santa Monica Mountains: A Fragmented Landscape
Since 1996, National Park Service (NPS) biologists have been studying carnivores in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA). They began their work in 1996 with bobcats and coyotes in areas near and within Thousand Oaks. In 2002, they began studying mountain lions, collaring their first cat in the west end of the mountains. The coyote work ended in 2003, while the bobcat and mountain lion studies continue. The primary goal of the projects is to learn how urban development impacts native carnivores in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.
Comprising of more than 153,000 acres, SMMNRA is the world’s largest urban park. It is fragmented both jurisdictionally and ecologically. Jurisdictionally, it consists of state, federal, and local lands. It spans from Point Mugu State Park in the west, to areas east of the I-405 such as Franklin and Runyon Canyons. SMMNRA also includes habitat patches in Thousand Oaks and the Simi Hills. _
Ecologically, SMMNRA is fragmented as well (see map). The area is surrounded on 3 sides by human development. To the south, the landscape is bordered by the Pacific Ocean. Within SMMNRA, patches of development, both large and small, may also be found. One reason that SMMNRA is a great place to study the impacts of urbanization on wildlife is because there are a variety of habitats influenced by urban development to be found. In the eastern region of the mountains, it is very fragmented with small habitat patches found between Bel Air, Beverly Hills, and Hollywood neighborhoods. To the far west we find Point Mugu State Park. The area is the most continuous, least fragmented habitat found in SMMNRA.
For more information about the park, please go to www.nps.gov/samo
Bobcat and Mountain Lion Sampling
SMMNRA is a very large area, and it would take a lot of manpower to trap and monitor bobcats and mountain lions across the entire study region. So, we have developed a sampling design in which we have areas of interest, and areas we are or have worked in. A map is presented below to these areas. Yellow numbered circles denote urban, fragmented regions were bobcats are known to exist. The blue circles denote areas that have little urban development. The habitat is not very fragmented, and is generally very natural, and good carnivore habitat. It is in these natural areas we also trap mountain lions. Mountain lions populations cannot persist in areas of extreme fragmentation given their home range sizes (see the Mountain Lions page for more information).
Bobcat trapping is ongoing by National Park Service biologists in the areas denoted by the yellow circle #1, and the blue circle #1. We have also expanded bobcat sampling to Yellow areas 2, 3, 4 and 7 and Blue areas 2 and 3. All other areas remain regions of interest we hope to some day target for bobcat sampling.
Many of our mountain lions have been captured in Blue areas 1-3 south of the 101-freeway. Three mountain lions have been captured in Blue area #4, and another lion was recently captured in the Santa Susana Mountains north of Simi Valley (north of the areas depicted in this map).