The soft sound of the sliding glass door, as I opened it, sent the dark shape up and over the wood fence in a single liquid motion that was elegant and seemingly effortless. The night was dark, plenty of stars, no moon. I could only be certain that the animal was much longer than a coyote and there was a rope-like tail that followed it over the fence.
This was twenty years ago, a mile south of Ventura Boulevard in Woodland Hills. I had a koi pond.
Like the coolest celebrities, the mountain lions of Los Angeles are seldom seen. However, many have been captured and collared and given a number. P-64, a four year old male was recently introduced to the monitoring program. The cats are given numbers because names might lead to disappointing emotional attachments.
Los Angeles is one of two megacities where lions live. The other city is Mumbai.
It has been estimated that human activity has reduced the distance mammals roam by sixty-six percent.
A healthy male mountain lion might have a home range of 200 miles. A female will generally roam seventy-five miles.
These outdoor cats are very territorial. Intraspecific strife (cat fights) are a cause of death for many lions. The presence of an intruder provokes feline fury. Magnificent muscles, anxious for motion, primed for speed, poised to kill, stretch and contract, deliver slashing, cutting claws. Teeth, driven by the powerful jaws of death, sink deep into the trespassers neck.
Room to roam would take some pressure off the lion population, making this anti-social behavior less common.
P-64, one day after he was caught, collared and released in Sky Valley, crossed under the 101 freeway, using a dark culvert at Liberty Canyon. Other cats have simply turned away when confronted with the freeway. Eighteen have been killed by contact with moving vehicles since 2002. P-64 made the transition from the Simi Hills to the Santa Monica Mountains. His final north west boundary is the Pacific Ocean.
Genetic diversity is vital to the future of the local lion population, which is somewhat isolated. P-64 is doing his part.