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Climate and Environment

Another Cougar Has Been Found Dead — Believed To Have Been Struck By A Car

Close up of a young mountain lion with prominent whiskers.
P-81 was found dead Sunday. He was 4 years old and had first been tagged by wildlife officials in 2020.
(Courtesy NPS)
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California Fish and Wildlife says the body of another mountain lion, P-81, was found Sunday, Jan. 22, on Pacific Coast Highway near Point Mugu. It looks like he was hit by a vehicle.

Why it matters

Getting around an increasingly urban landscape has proved deadly to many of Southern California's big cats. Our busy freeway system has pinned in mountain lions, bobcats, deer and other wildlife in the Santa Monica Mountains for years. That's led to inbreeding — and the threat of eventual extinction. Officials said P-81 had signs of inbreeding including a kinked tail and only one descended testicle.

What's being done about it

The latest death is proof that breaking out of the mountains is a dangerous journey. The Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing is now under construction in Agoura Hills. It's like a natural walking path for critters that want to get safely across the busy 101 Freeway and head for open space to the north.

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A rendering of what the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Corridor will look like upon completion. Also known as the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing (named for one of its largest donors), the project will provide safe passage over the 101 freeway at a dangerous bottleneck for animals.
(Courtesy of Living Habitats)

Why now

Being struck by a car is the leading cause of death for mountain lions being studied in the Santa Monica Mountains. Nine have died in road collisions just since March 2022. And P-81 is the 34th mountain lion to be killed in a collision incident since 2002.

About P-81

He was first collared in 2020 and is believed to have been 4 years old. Officials said he was likely struck on Sunday.

A necropsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.

A big cat has a visible collar on its neck in a night shot
Courtesy National Parks Service via Flickr) )

P-81's death comes a little more than a month after P-22, L.A.'s most famous mountain lion, was euthanized after he was hit by a car and showed other signs of distress. P-22 was estimated to be 12 years old, unusually old for a mountain lion living in the wild.

A sold-out ceremony honoring his life and memory is planned for next weekend at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. P-22 was famous in large part because he was able to make his way to Griffith Park, where he spent much of his life. To do so, he had to get from the western side of the Santa Monica Mountains to the eastern side. Park rangers said this likely required him successfully crossing two major freeways.

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