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Local extinction of Southern California mountain lions possible within 50 years

Two isolated mountain lion populations in Southern California's Santa Ana and Santa Monica mountains are at risk of local extinction, perhaps as soon as within 50 years, according to a new, National Science Foundation-funded study. The study showed the extinction risk is due to low genetic diversity and mortality that affects the stability of the population. Mountain lion mortality is often caused by humans, but can also result from changes in the environment, such as wildfire and fluctuations in prey density. The two mountain lion populations in the human-dominated landscape of Southern California are isolated by freeways and development. For the study, the researchers used population viability modeling to predict the possibilities of extinction from genetic and demographic risk factors. The research highlighted that conservation of large carnivores, including mountain lions, is achievable within urbanized landscapes. But this requires effort. Land protection, connection between the lands and strategies to promote coexistence with humans are necessary to prevent the extinction of these top predators.

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