DEEGAN ON LA-The recent news that an as yet gender-unidentified mountain lion has been discovered in the Hollywood Hills reminds us that, while we live in a very dense city, our urban landscape also includes a thriving wilderness. If the mystery cat is a female and if she mates with one of the better-known local mountain lions – such as the iconic P-22 – we could soon have a new family in search of a hillside habitat. It would be, however, a family without a “dad” since male mountain lions leave “mom” within days of mating.
The legendary mountain lion P-22 may have some good news depending on the gender of this recently discovered cat prowling near his habitat in the Hollywood Hills. An October 26 video capture of a non-collared mountain lion roaming through the Laurel Canyon hillside alerted Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife of its presence. If the new cat is female, she could become a mate for P-22.
This very popular eligible male mountain lion who has made Griffith Park his home, is so famous he’s got his own hashtag, #SaveLACougars. He’s featured in his own Los Angeles County Natural History Museum exhibition, and he’s even been honored with his own official day by a Mayoral and City Council Decree: October 22 is P-22 Day in LA! Like any celebrity, he’s also social media savvy with his own Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts, and, as a high-profile Hollywood star, he has his own movie, “The Cat That Changed America.”
While it’s too early to say if this mating will occur (maybe starting a new big cat dynasty?) it’s clear that there could be more cats than we know of out roaming the hills. And this could increase the chance of expanding the ranks of Hollywood royalty in the animal kingdom.
Mating, of course, is essential to the survival of a species. While not officially endangered, the mountain lion, a breed that tends to live isolated within its territory, is threatened by the urban mass surrounding its Hollywood Hills/Santa Monica Mountains’ habitat. Mountain lion behavior is not family-formatted and it’s only during courtship, a very quick process, that male and female mountain lions spend much time together. Even the cubs remain only a year or two with their mother before they become individual hunters, off on their own, although they often end up as the hunted, preyed on by other male mountain lions.
Jeff Sikich, a National Park Service field biologist who’s spent the last 13 years studying lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, said in a recent Scientific American interview, “Out of all the young males we’ve followed in the Santa Monicas, and I think there’s been 16, none have lived to the age of two. All have been killed either by being hit on a freeway or running into the adult male in the Santa Monicas.”
The mountain lion mating ritual is very compressed. A male discovers the female when it inhales the female’s hormone-laden scent during her estrus period, when she ovulates and becomes susceptible to copulation and pregnancy. The eventual copulation is short-lived but repetitive -- an act that takes less than a minute, but is repeated for several days, sometimes over fifty times a day. Pregnancy lasts about 90 days, and generally yields a litter of 1-4 cubs. By this time, the male has long since disappeared, preferring to live a solitary life.
If you’re a hillside resident in the Laurel Canyon area, or possibly even Griffith Park, you may hear the shrill cries of courtship being carried in the wind one quiet evening. Just think, it could be the famous P-22 and his new very-short-term mate in the act of creating your newest hillside neighbors.
(Tim Deegan is a long-time resident and community leader in the Miracle Mile, who has served as board chair at the Mid City West Community Council and on the board of the Miracle Mile Civic Coalition. Tim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.
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