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Why capturing the Los Angeles P-22 mountain lion could take weeks

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The search is on for Los Angeles’ most famous wildcat.

Wildlife officials said they plan to capture the P-22 puma after concerns arose over possible ‘signs of distress’, including the killing of a Chihuahua on a leash last month and the attack another Chihuahua last week.

While the prospect of finding and capturing an animal wearing a tracking collar may seem straightforward, a wildlife expert familiar with past efforts to track and trap mountain lions told The Times on Friday that such operations are dauntingly complex. unpredictable.

“It’s up to the cat to decide,” said Beth Pratt, the National Wildlife Federation’s regional executive director for California and the nonprofit’s #SaveLACougars campaign manager. “It could be a few days or it could be in a month. It just depends on how quickly the cat cooperates.

Elsewhere in the country, a common technique for capturing cougars is to use dogs to force the cat into a tree or corner it, she said.

But in Los Angeles, officials will avoid this tactic due to the possibility of the cougar running into a residential area, a main street or a freeway, Pratt said.

“We don’t want the Olympics [Simpson freeway] hunting is going on with P-22,” she said.

Local wildlife experts use a baited cage to trap cougars, but it can take weeks for the cat to take the bait.

And just figuring out where a mountain lion might be is a major challenge, Pratt said.

The P-22 wears a tracking collar, but the device runs on batteries, and setting it up to provide real-time tracking would quickly drain its power.

GPS collars for cougars in the National Park Service’s Los Angeles area study, including P-22, send out a location ping during the day and hourly pings at night, according to Pratt.

“You have to be in the right place at the right time, and mountain lions can travel up to 25 miles a day,” she said.

If the researchers get close enough, they could pick up the radio signal also transmitted by the P-22’s collar, which could place them within 50 feet of the feline.

But mountain lions, nicknamed “ghost cats,” can be seen as introverts who don’t want to be found, Pratt said.

“They hunt by hiding,” she says. “They are extremely good at hiding. Most people never see a cougar [in person].”

The longtime conservationist said Los Angeles residents should be credited for coexisting with P-22 and for generally recognizing that his recent behavior is part of his predatory nature.

Residents should not attempt to intervene or try to capture P-22 themselves under any circumstances, but if they see the mountain lion or catch it on security camera video, they should tip at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Pratt said.

Pet owners should be careful and watch their pets closely, she said.

Cougars are most active at night and bringing dogs and cats indoors at dusk is a good precaution.

Updates on the search effort were not available Saturday from state wildlife officials or the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

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California Daily Newspapers

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