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Mountain Lion Born In Santa Monica Mountains NRA Killed While Crossing Interstate Highway


P-18, a mountain lion born in the Santa Monica Mountains NRA back in May 2010, was killed earlier this week in a vehicle collision. Bottom photo shows the lion caught on a remote camera in July. NPS photos.

A mountain lion born in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area a little more than a year ago was killed earlier this week when it was struck by a vehicle while trying to cross Interstate 405.

NRA officials say the lion, P-18, was killed Tuesday morning just south of the Getty Center southbond on-ramp.

The 15-month-old mountain lion’s movement was being followed via radio telemetry equipment as part of a decade long National Park Service mountain lion study in the Santa Monica Mountains. The mountain lion had been tracked since it was three weeks old.

Earlier this summer, P-18 departed from his mother’s home range in Malibu Creek State Park and slowly began making his way east through the mountains. Male mountain lions have an extremely large range of movement, and often seek out open space away from other male mountain lions as they mature.

There are two other male mountain lions with GPS collars in the Santa Monica Mountains. It is possible that P-18 was attempting to disperse out of the Santa Monica Mountains to find unoccupied open space. Previous mountain lion tracking has shown that individual male mountain lions frequently move throughout the entire Santa Monica Mountain range, from the 405 to Camarillo on a regular basis.

Freeways are a known significant barrier to wildlife crossings in the Los Angeles area and other urban centers around the country.

Caltrans, in partnership with numerous local, state, federal and non-profit organizations is working to identify funding sources and suitable wildlife crossing locations along the 405 and highways 101 and 118 to construct wildlife crossings that would facilitate wildlife movement between the Santa Monica Mountains and other protected open space in the Santa Susana Mountains and Los Padres National Forest. These wildlife crossings would allow animals to move freely between large areas of protected parkland, and increase genetic diversity in the Santa Monica Mountains mountain lion population, a critical need for long term species survival.

“Investing in connected pieces of parkland and constructing wildlife crossings along major freeways around Los Angeles is essential for long-term mountain lion survival in the Santa Monica Mountains,” said park superintendent Woody Smeck. “Mountain lions must be able to move freely between large parklands with suitable habitat throughout the course of their daily movements, as well as exchange genetic material to prevent inbreeding in specific parkland areas like the Santa Monica Mountains.”

The Park Service began studying mountain lions in Santa Monica Mountains NRA in 2002. A total of 21 mountain lions have been tracked via radio telemetry and GPS collars in that time. In addition to studying mountain lion movement, a genetics study is also ongoing to discover indications of possible inbreeding among the mountain lion population in the Santa Monica Mountains.

There has only been one documented successful mountain lion crossing in the study for either of the freeways that surround the Santa Monica Mountains; P-12 crossed highway 101 in early 2009, and has lived in the Santa Monica Mountains ever since. P-12 is father to the young mountain lion that was killed on Tuesday.

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