The death of the beloved P-22 puma continues to shed light on the importance of linking wild spaces for animals to roam.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The recent death of Los Angeles’ beloved P-22 cougar is a reminder that protected spaces and crossings are needed to ensure the health and safety of urban wildlife in Southern California. A new exhibit, ‘Caught on Camera’ at the San Diego Museum of Natural History highlights the use of technology to study the animals that roam the county in an effort to help maintain biodiversity.
“It’s capturing animals that are, for the most part, secretive, like the mountain lion that is hard to see. That’s why camera traps, technology and photography are so great because they allow us to observe these animals doing things that we wouldn’t do.” Otherwise, I could watch them do it,” said Exequiel Ezcurra, Director of Conservation Biology, Dr. Michelle Thompson.
While most cougars shy away from the spotlight, there’s always a rebel in the family.
“I think P-022’s proximity to the urban, a large urban space, made that cat special,” Dr. Thompson said.
The famous Los Angeles species of cougar was often talked about on social media, reported and seen on camera traps roaming the east side of the Santa Monica Mountains near Griffith Park. After years of serious health problems stemming from habitat isolation, car strikes, and rat poisoning, P-022 was “compassionately” euthanized in December. Unfortunately, P-022’s struggles are obstacles faced by all urban wildlife throughout Southern California, which includes our own backyard. Dr. Michelle Thompson points out the harsh realities of our fellow mammals.
“Being trapped in artificially small habitats, not being able to move around, exposure to toxins and pollution (in the case of P-022, rat poisoning) and then also the hazards of the roads. So traffic is a huge danger to life. urban wild.” said Dr. Thompson.
The death of the beloved mountain lion continues to shed light on the importance of linking wild/protected spaces for wildlife to roam. Fortunately for us, the layout of our county is a great help.
“In fact, we have all these urban canyons in San Diego, and you just don’t build into the canyons. And so with those that allow us to have so much connectivity from one preserve, one big open area to another. It’s just a wonderful component that we are gifted to have,” explains Scott Tremor, Mammalogist at The NAT.
Despite our ideal topography, getting from point A to point B has its challenges for our wildlife, whether they have two legs or four. Unfortunately, the larger the animal, the greater the security risk.
“They’re just not as agile and are affected much more. In general, the larger those animals are, the fewer there are. And so populations are greatly affected by just one main road,” Tremor said.
The San Diego Museum of Natural History partners with wildlife governing agencies, along with transportation and utility agencies to make sure crossing crossings are less treacherous for them. There are already safe crossings under State Route 52 between Santo Road and Mast Boulevard, and another at Scripps Poway Parkway.
More projects are in the works, including a crossing over the 15th near Rainbow, which would benefit mountain lions traveling between the Santa Ana Mountains and Palomar Mountain. There are also talks to improve a troublesome stretch of highway, where the population of these cuties has skyrocketed.
“One of the areas where animals regularly kill is right next to Mount Woodson, along Highway 67. It’s a hotspot. There’s a large population of these ringtails,” Tremor said.
The NAT has been studying these tiny cousins of the long-tailed raccoons because little is known about them in the Golden State. And with quite a few populations on the rocks of Mount Woodson, they are working with Caltrans and other agencies for safe movement across the 67.
“There are many more planned. In the decision phases as we find better ways for wildlife to persist in this region,” Tremor said.
Because we have to remember, our health depends on theirs.
“It is important to maintain biodiversity. People are also very connected to the health of the ecosystem. So it is important for people and nature,” said Dr. Thompson.
If you are interested in learning more about how cameras are used in conservation, there will be a public talk on February 28 at The NAT at 7:00 pm Click here for more details.
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