Southern California’s Woolsey Fire torched nearly all of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, threatening bobcat and mountain lions that researchers are studying with GPS tracking devices.
But park rangers have now accounted for all of those GPS-monitored animals in the Los Angeles area, LAist reports — expect for one.
P-74, the young mountain lion rangers most recently captured and collared, is likely dead following the blaze, park rangers said in a Facebook post Monday. Rangers said his collar stopped reporting to researchers on Nov. 9. That’s the day the wildfire swept into the Santa Monica Mountains’ central region, which is where P-74 was captured in September, according to park rangers.
“Our biologists have also gone into the field and searched by foot, but have had no luck,” Ranger Ana Beatriz said. “If we get any new information, we will be sure to let you know.”
Beatriz added that P-74 had likely been traveling with his mother, a mountain lion researchers were not tracking.
Park rangers said in a Nov. 15 Facebook post that 88 percent of National Park Service land in the recreational area had burned. A handful of the dozens of tracked mountain lions were missing following the extensive fire, including P-74, P-42 and P-22. But P-22 had turned up in Griffith Park by Nov. 15, rangers wrote on Twitter, and P-42 was found later.
Researchers have been using GPS to follow select mountain lions’ movements in the Los Angeles area since 2002, according to the National Parks Service. Other than Mumbai, Los Angeles is the only megacity that doubles as a big cat habitat.
The Woolsey Fire burned nearly 100,000 acres across Los Angeles and Ventura counties, threatening lives and forcing evacuations, according to CAL FIRE. By Nov. 21, the blaze that had begun on Nov. 8 was 100 percent contained. The fire killed three and injured three firefighters. It destroyed 1,500 structures, including the homes of stars like Miley Cyrus and Neil Young.
As the fire tore through the park, rangers described it in stark terms.
“It looks like a moonscape environment,” National Park spokesperson Kate Kuykendall said in an interview with KPCC, describing the devastation left behind. “There’s unfortunately not a lot we can do right now, except watch all of these landscapes burning.”
While some Los Angeles residents fear the region’s mountain lion population, others love their local big cats — and were heartbroken over news of P-74’s likely death.
“I am choosing to believe the collar burnt off but the baby lived,” one Twitter user wrote.