In the quilt of public and private lands that fall within the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, wild and domestic animals live relatively side-by-side. But when animals such as mountain lions view alpacas and goats as meals, California officials can essentially sign death warrants for the cats. That's been done in the case of P-45, a mountain lion thought to be responsible for the recent predation of 11 alpacas and a goat.
"A large amount of the land within our park boundary is privately owned (43 percent), and a number of private landowners have hobby animals or, in some cases, a decent-size herd of alpacas or goats," NRA spokeswoman Kate Kuykendall said in an email. "We continue to have issues with animals not being protected in this environment, and a number of mountain lions have preyed on them, especially over the past year.
"But P-45's home range is in an area where the herd sizes (and thus opportunity) tend to be larger, so that particular part of the mountains has been upset for some time and has wanted him dead. A resident previously got a permit from the state and took a shot and, we think, injured him, but he survived. Now another resident has received a permit to do the same."
Last weekend, 10 alpacas were killed in one incident and one alpaca and a goat were killed in another, the spokeswoman said. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife investigated the predations and determined that a mountain lion was behind them.
P-45 is a male lion, thought to have been born either in 2012 or 2013, according to NRA biologists. He also is thought to be one of the largest mountain lions in the NRA.
After the permit to hunt the mountain lion was issued, the National Park Service released the following statement:
We extend our condolences to those who have lost a pet or animal as a result of being preyed upon by native wildlife. This is extremely unfortunate for everyone.
Our partners at the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) have issued a permit, as they are required under state law, for the mountain lion known as P-45 to be killed within 10 days. Although we conduct research on the local mountain lion population, CDFW is responsible for managing the state's wildlife.
We respect the legal process that is currently underway, but also suggest that we all need to work together in the future to ensure that pets and livestock are safe and that mountain lions can continue to roam in the Santa Monica Mountains, as they have done for millennia.
... The only long-term solution to keeping mountain lions in these mountains is mountain-lion-proof enclosures for otherwise defenseless animals. Eliminating P-45 does not solve the problem, especially given there are at least four mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains that have killed livestock over the past year. Nor is P-45's behavior abnormal or aberrant in any way, even if the number of animals killed is large. In a typical natural setting, animals flee from a mountain lion attack, but if animals are stuck in an unsecured pen, a mountain lion's natural response can be to prey upon all available animals.