Ecology and Conservation of Mountain Lions in Greater Los Angeles

Cover image: National Park Service


Landscape connectivity is critical for conserving large carnivores in our increasingly human-dominated world. Mountain lions in California are an important case study highlighting the challenges and opportunities for top predators persisting along gradients of human activity and infrastructure.

The Wolf Conservation Center hosted Dr. John Benson on May 19, 2022 at 6 pm Eastern for an engaging discussion about these elusive beings. Dr. Benson and his colleagues with the National Park Service have been studying behavior and population dynamics of mountain lions in southern California for almost 20 years to investigate their ecology in and adjacent to Los Angeles.

These mountain lions face many obstacles– high rates of inbreeding, low genetic diversity, isolated home ranges, vehicle collisions, and more – but Dr. Benson’s research suggests that conservation is possible if landscape connectivity is prioritized.

Although the challenges are daunting, there is reason for optimism as their research has informed science-based shifts in policy, contributed to consideration of conservation listing in portions of California, and provided the scientific basis for the construction of the largest highway crossing in the world.


Dr. John Benson is an associate professor of vertebrate ecology at the University of Nebraska. He has conducted research on wildlife populations across North America studying mountain lions, wolves, black bears, coyotes, moose, mule deer, bighorn sheep, elk, white sharks, and other species. He is motivated by a desire to inform the conservation of wildlife – and by a fascination with the natural world. His work combines population, behavioral, molecular, and landscape ecology as he attempts to understand factors influencing individuals, populations, communities, and ecosystems. In his lab at the University of Nebraska, they conduct intensive field studies around the world, asking questions grounded in theoretical ecology and using quantitative approaches to inform conservation and contribute to basic ecology.

Credit: John Benson
Credit: John Benson