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Mountain Lions Recommended For Protection Under California's Endangered Species Act

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Mountain lions in Southern California have been recommended for protection under the state's Endangered Species Act, just days after the National Park Service confirmed a mountain lion was killed in January by a landowner with a depredation permit.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife had been reviewing a petition submitted last summer by the Center for Biological Diversity and the nonprofit Mountain Lion Foundation, and this week recommended there was "sufficient scientific information available at this time" that listing the species "may be warranted," according to Jordan Traverso, a spokesman for the department. If the Fish and Game Commission agrees in April, it will trigger a 12-month status review by Fish and Wildlife.

Traverso said the review has been in the process for the past eight to nine months, and was not in response to the killing of P-56, which was confirmed by the National Park Service on Monday.

The mountain lion population in the Santa Monica Mountains has been the subject of an 18-year study by National Park Service biologists. Mountain lions in California struggle to survive and breed amid residential development, freeways and hazards like rat poisoning and are already designated a "specially protected mammal" in the state.

(credit: National Parks Service)

Hunting mountain lions in California has been banned since 1990. But P-56, who was added to the study in April 2017, was killed in January under the state's "three-strike" policy. State officials says permit was issued to the Santa Monica Mountains landowner after several non-lethal efforts to keep the lion from killing 12 livestock – mostly sheep and a few lambs -- over two years.

The news of P-56's killing prompted L.A. City councilmen Paul Koretz and David Ryu to introduce a resolution, calling on the state to end the issuance of depredation permit.

"There continues to be an insane disconnect between the important conservation work we are doing in a time when we are racing the clock to protect our native species ... while the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is undermining our work by handing out depredation permits on an apex predator just trying to survive in his natural habitat," Councilman Paul Koretz said. "We can do better and we must."

Native mountain lions have had an especially hard time in Southern California after the Thomas and Woolsey fires burned through much of their habitat and chased away their food sources. At least one big cat, P-74, is believed to have died in the Woolsey Fire.

"The Southern California mountain lion is the symbol of L.A.'s wildlife," Ryu said. "It is the apex predator at the top of a diverse ecosystem you can't find anywhere else on Earth. But today, our iconic mountain lions face the possibility of extinction."

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