I sometimes wonder, living in Los Angeles, why there are so many humans here, but all of the big saber toothed cats and awesome La Brea Tar Pits Pleistocene animals are not here (imagine dire wolves, Columbian mammoths, the American horse, and the ground sloth). They occupied this land up to 10,000 years ago; they were awesome in their size and orthodontics (love those epic tusks!).
In the past year, I have become aware of the struggling mountain lion population in an area in Los Angeles called Griffith Park (link to mountain lion study); for point of reference, it’s the mountain range that contains the Hollywood sign. These top of the food chain feline predators have become trapped in a small mountain range which is bordered by 8 lane freeways. At the base of these mountains are endless streams of cars and lights, at all hours. How is a cougar to cross these dangerous rivers of light?
“Why can’t these lions just be moved to other ranges and other forests?” — you might ask. Apparently, lions must choose their area. If we plopped anyone of these pumas into another puma’s range, they would fight the local alpha male, and the new transplant would most likely lose.
Thinking about the animals that were here long ago, and the animals that are struggling now is one thing. But, even these amazing animals are part of a bigger story — a rich connected web. What do all native wild animals need? Food! Many of these animals are herbivores, eating plants, nuts, and berries. One way that we can get in touch with supporting native animals, both herbivores and carnivores, are by educating ourselves on plants, which are the basis for ultimately maintaining these larger animals. How can we get to know what plants are around us? Fortunately, the Audubon Society website has a really nice native plant database.
Enter in your zip code and you can see many of the native plants in your area. Which ones do you recognize from your garden? If you don’t recognize them, go to a state, national, regional, or county park that does not have big lawns. How many of these plants can you find?
If you want to read more about the pumas of Los Angeles, see http://www.urbancarnivores.com/. I just love these animals! As a painter, they have captured my imagination. I will be showing some of my wildlife paintings at P-22 Day/National Urban Wildlife Week from 11-4 on Saturday, October 27 at Shane’s Inspiration in Griffith Park. I hope to see you there!
Hollywood P-22 photo taken by Steve Winter. It was used as the cover of the December 2013 National Geographic issue.