A popular young mountain lion, known as P-32, was struck and killed by a vehicle Monday on Interstate 5 near Castaic, California, a statement from the National Park Service (NPS) said Thursday. The mountain lion was approximately 21 months old and had reportedly roamed nearly 150 miles through local neighborhoods before entering Los Padres National Forest.
P-32 had crossed the 101 Freeway, State Route 23, Highway 118 and Highway 126, and was referred to as a “textbook case of successful dispersal” by the NPS. He was ear-tagged by the park service when he was four-weeks old. The statement said that P-32 was the twelfth mountain lion to be killed since 2002, when researchers began studying the species' population and how they lived in urban areas. NPS called the accident “sad but not surprising.”
"P-32 conquered all kinds of freeways and highways to reach the Los Padres, but it was probably another dominant male that made him leave the area and attempt one last crossing, which obviously was not successful," Dr. Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA), said in the NPS statement.
P-32 was pictured in 2013 as a four-week-old kitten and again this February, interacting with his sister and feeding on a deer carcass, making him a celebrity of sorts, the Los Angeles Times reported. He was collared in the Santa Monica Mountains, near Point Mugu State Park and was known to have travelled as far north as Pyramid Lake, 75 miles away. He was also the only known male to travel out of the Santa Monica mountains and wander northward into other habitats, Kate Kuykendall, a spokeswoman for SMMNRA, told the LA Times.
Nearly 5,000 mountain lions live in California and collisions with vehicles are a major reason for their deaths in the area, according to the LA Times. A wildlife crossing on the 101 Freeway near Liberty Canyon Road has reportedly been proposed to minimize chances of road accidents involving the animals, but officials said that even that may not completely eliminate similar accidents.
Riley told the LA Times that the crossing is expected to be expensive and will take time to be put in place. However, he added: “It would be an amazing statement about wildlife and conservation in the second-largest metropolitan area in the country. Everyone that would drive that freeway would see, ‘Wow, they put something over this freeway specifically for wildlife.’”