The first GPS-collared mountain lion, known to local wildlife scientists as P-61, was fatally struck by a car near the Sepulveda Pass he was known to cross early Saturday, according to the National Park Service (NPS).
The four-year-old mountain lion became well-known for being the first GPS-collared animal to cross the 10-lane freeway during the 17 years experts have studied them in and around the Santa Monica Mountains.
P-61 was moved around 4am at the Sepulveda Boulevard underpass by the California Highway Patrol. Animal control officers notified the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and researchers at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Officials believe another mountain lion could have prompted P-61 to cross the freeway again.
“Based on his GPS points, he had been staying close to the eastern edge of the 405 more recently,” NPS wrote in an Instagram post. “Over the last few years, we and other have gotten remote camera photos of an uncollared male mountain lion that apparently lives in that area. A negative encounter between the two could have caused P-61 to move back west.”
Male mountain lions are known to be territorial and they do not share the same habitat with the others.
“Male mountain lions do not play well together, they do not share the same habitat. They need their own space, and so, possibly, they got into a scuffle,” Santa Monica Mountains spokeswoman Ana Beatriz Cholo told KTLA in an interview. “If that’s the case, then he was trying to get away from the other mountain lion.”
There had been plans of the construction of wildlife crossing bridges that could help animals, such as mountain lions, move safely across the 405 and 101 freeways.
At least 19 mountain lions were struck to death by vehicles in the area that was monitored by the Park Service. Though they are not a threatened species in California, nonprofit group Center for Biological Diversity submitted a petition to the state Fish and Game Commission to give the animals a protective status.
“P-61’s tragic death underscores the larger threat facing Southern California mountain lions,” J.P. Rose, an attorney with the organization, said. “They are hemmed in by freeways which prevent them from maintaining healthy populations and scientists predict they may go extinct in the next few decades unless things change. That’s why we petitioned state officials to protect mountain lions under the California Endangered Species Act, which would result in more wildlife crossings and safer roads.”