- Associated Press - Friday, October 9, 2015

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) - Three young mountain lions have been found dead in the Santa Monica Mountains in recent weeks, something officials say illustrates how difficult it is for the large, free-roaming animals to survive in a rugged wilderness hemmed in by one of the nation’s most urbanized areas.

The most recent victim, a female named P-34 by the National Park Service, was found Sept. 30 on a hiking trail.

Results of a necropsy are pending, but park service ecologist Seth Riley said Friday it appears the cougar ingested rat poison left out by someone to control the rodent population. Riley said P-34 was known to roam right to the edge of the park, near homes and farms.

Last December she was discovered lounging under a mobile home in Newbury Park. Earlier that same day she was photographed strolling through someone’s backyard.

The other two dead cougars were kittens. They were found shortly before P-34’s body was discovered.

They appear to have been attacked by an adult mountain lion, something Riley said is not uncommon when the free-ranging, territorial animals are forced into fairly tight quarters.

“In some ways it’s amazing we still have some of the state’s largest carnivores here in the second-largest metropolitan area in the country,” he said.

Although the Santa Monica Mountains recreational area is rugged it is hemmed in by several busy freeways and numerous homes.

P-34’s sibling, named P-32, gained a measure of fame last year when it repeatedly crossed some of the nation’s busiest freeways as it wandered through the area. It was struck by a car and killed on Interstate 5 last August.

Riley said park officials believe there are 10 to 15 cougars roaming around the park.

The largest wildcats in North America, adult mountain lions can weigh as much as 100 to 180 pounds. They can cover a range of more than 350 miles.

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