New mountain lion seen in Verdugo Mountains after death of P-41 hints at viable corridors

Eight months after the death in October of P-41 — the first adult male mountain lion documented living in the Verdugo Mountains above Glendale and Burbank — from rodenticide poisoning, there’s a new puma in town.

On June 19, camera traps captured images of an adult male mountain lion traveling in close proximity to an untagged female nicknamed Nikita, who’d earlier mated with P-41 and produced multiple litters of kittens, none of which survived in the wild.

A picture of health with an apparently unblemished coat and white teeth, the newly spotted male has already been nicknamed Adonis by conservationists and the wildlife photographers-turned-citizen-scientists whose cameras caught the first dazzling images of the newcomer.

“He’s definitely young. The way he moves, his musculature, his coat, he doesn’t have any scars — he’s just perfect, which is why we call him Adonis,” said Johanna Turner, a Universal Studios sound effects editor who began camera trapping in 2008 and prolifically followed the exploits of P-41 with fellow photographer Denis Callet.

First seen in 2010, P-41 may have come south from the San Gabriel Mountains, possibly crossing the Foothill (210) Freeway in search of his own territory, according to Jeff Sikich, biologist for the National Park Service. Sikich collared the 8-year-old cat in 2015 for inclusion in a mountain lion study that’s tagged 69 subjects in or near the Santa Monica Mountains since 2002.

Data collected from P-41’s GPS collar indicated he crossed into the San Rafael Hills, on the southern side of La Cañada Flintridge, at least twice while living in the Verdugo Mountains. Bordered by freeways and surrounded by intense development, the isolated Verdugos fall outside the aegis of the Park Service’s Santa Monica National Recreation Area but play a role in understanding wildlife movement throughout the Southland, Sikich says.

“There are a lot of implications of connectivity in the area,” the biologist said. “By following animals in these fragmented landscapes we hope to learn about landscape connectivity in the region and if there are any movement corridors these animals are using.”

When P-41’s decomposed body was discovered in Los Angeles’ Shadow Hills neighborhood after the 7,200-acre La Tuna fire, tests identified six strains of anticoagulant rodenticide in his system. Sixteen of the 17 living cats in the Park Service’s mountain lion study have tested positive for rodenticide, including P-55, a 3-year-old Santa Monica Mountains lion found dead on Wednesday.

As Nikita was caught on video dolefully calling out for her mate, Turner and other conservationists grew concerned for the fate of mountain lions in the Verdugos. Then along came Adonis.

Barbara Goto is director of operations for the Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy, a Pasadena-based group that preserves land for use as wildlife corridors. AFC recently acquired Cottonwood Canyon, an 11-acre parcel off of Linda Vista Avenue in the San Rafael Hills that the group believes opens up to a 20-mile wildlife corridor stretching from Hahamongna Watershed Park west to Tujunga.

For Goto, the discovery of a new male in the Verdugos, especially given the nearby presence of a female, is promising.

“We hope he’s found, if not the love of his life, at least someone he’d like to have a few litters with,” she said of Adonis. “We’d really like him and his female to be able to go back and forth in the San Gabriel Mountains so they have greater genetic diversity. That would be our wish for him — to find love and freedom.”

Twitter: @SaraCardine