By CBSLA Staff

THOUSAND OAKS (CBSLA) — The ongoing study of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains has hit a new milestone – biologists are now tracking the region’s 99th cat.

(credit: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area)

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P-99 was captured on Sept. 8, according to a news release this week from the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. She is estimated to be about 2 to 3 years old and was found in the western portion of the Santa Monica Mountains.

When P-99 was captured, she was anesthetized and given a full work-up by biologists, according to park officials. She weighed in at 75 pounds, and biologists took other measurements, collected biological samples, conducted a physical exam, and eventually fitted her with an eartag and GPS radio collar.

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The National Park Service has been studying mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains since 2002. P-99 is the latest mountain lion to become part of the study into how the animals are surviving and breeding in a habitat that is blocked in on one side by the Pacific Ocean, regularly ravaged by wildfire, and being increasingly encroached upon by freeways, homes, and other human development.

Park officials say they are currently tracking 13 mountain lions with GPS collars in the region. But that number is close to exceeding what prey and habitat in the area can support – biologists estimate that the Santa Monica Mountains, south of the 101 Freeway and west of the 405, can only support about 10 to 15 mountain lions, not including kittens.

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A number of lions that were being tracked by biologists have died over the years due to vehicle strikes or rodenticide from ingesting prey that had consumed rat poison, which has since been banned in California. Researchers are also very concerned that being hemmed in by so much human development may lead to inbreeding and genetic abnormalities that could eventually lead to native mountain lions disappearing from the Santa Monica Mountains.