Watch This Rare Video of a Pack of Mountain Lions Roaming Los Angeles

The big cats face an uncertain future as freeways restrict their range.
Oct 23, 2014·
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

The mountain lions sharing Southern California’s suburban sprawl with 20 million people are rarely heard and seldom seen.

That didn’t stop wildlife enthusiast Robert Martinez from trying to capture California’s top predator—on video.

Now, after two and a half years of lining game trails deep in the Angeles National Forest with surveillance cameras, he’s scored wildlife gold.

Four mountain lions traveling together early in the morning on Oct. 17 set off the motion sensor on one of his cameras, leading to rare footage of the solitary animals as they traveled in a pack.

It’s a quick but breathtaking shot of a cougar group; one of the lions steals the show, stopping for a star turn before following the others.

“I was checking my memory card, and when I first saw four lions, I thought I was seeing things,” Martinez told ABC7.com. “When I realized it was four lions, I definitely jumped up and became way more aware and couldn’t believe that four cats were just there.”

Later that night, the same device captured a solitary male mountain lion, which Martinez thinks might have been following the pack.

Martinez had placed eight cameras in the same area in Big Dalton Canyon above Glendora. He hikes in every few days to check the footage.

It’s this type of visual evidence of the sleek, golden cats that Martinez hopes brings more awareness to the species as the mountain lion population declines with habitat loss.

“I just want to see these beautiful creatures that roam the mountains when I’m gone and raise awareness, and hopefully protect them, keep their legacy going,” he told ABC7.com.

California’s freeway system is one of the main threats: Concrete thoroughfares for cars act as barriers for big cats, hemming groups into smaller and smaller territories. That’s leading to shrinking breeding groups and some of the lowest levels of genetic diversity among mountain lions in North America.

In the nearby Santa Ana Mountains, a recent study conducted by the University of California, Davis, found that the mountain lion population has experienced steep declines in the past 80 years as freeways have divided the animal’s habitat.

“It’s not just natural factors causing this loss of genetic diversity,” Holly Ernest, lead author and a UC-Davis professor, said in a statement. “It’s us—people—impacting these environments.”

A solution? More freeways—for wildlife only. Researchers are finding that migration corridors, or tunnels going underneath freeways, can give mountain lions the ability to roam outside their restricted ranges.

“This study really highlights the impact a road can have on wildlife,” Scott Morrison, study coauthor and science director at the Nature Conservancy, said in a statement. “The land-use decisions made along Interstate 15 over the next few years may well be fateful for lions in the Santa Ana Mountains.”