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Climate and Environment

Young Mountain Lion Killed On The 405, The 26th Of Its Species Fatally Struck By A Driver

A young mountain lion is captured on a remote camera at night.
P-97 was killed overnight on the 405 freeway. The mountain lion was 18-months-old
(Courtesy National Park Service)
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The mountain lion hit and killed by a driver on the 405 freeway in the early morning Thursday has been identified as P-97, an 18-month-old male.

P-97 was struck and killed while attempting to cross the Sepulveda Pass roadway. The incident was reported near Getty Center Drive and the 405 southbound in Brentwood at around 1 a.m.

The death of the cougar came just a day before Friday's groundbreaking for a wildlife crossing — a bridge in Agoura Hills that, when finished, will give animals a way to safely pass over the 101 freeway.

Beth Pratt, with the National Wildlife Federation, says when the freeways were built, "we didn't know what it was doing to animal travel patterns."

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Now she said the risks are clear.

"Basically it comes down to this — I've stood at to 101 at 2 a.m. and I still wouldn't cross and that's what these animals are pretty much saying — they come to the 101, they look at it and they're like ... no way am I trying that."

This is the 26th mountain lion to be killed by a vehicle since the National Park Service launched its study of the populations in the Santa Monica Mountains and the surrounding environments in 2002.

A UC Davis study finds wildlife-vehicle collisions are a big problem in California — more than 44,000 were reported on state roads from 2016 to 2020.

The last big cat to meet a similar fate was P-104, in March. It was the first mountain lion to be struck and killed by a driver on the Pacific Coast Highway.

J.P. Rose, with the Center for Biological Diversity, called the cougar's death another "preventable" tragedy during a week that "was supposed to be one of celebration" for the crossing.

An artist's rendering shows a wide green passageway over many lanes of highway.
An artist's rendering shows a wide green passageway over many lanes of highway
((Courtesy National Wildlife Federation) )

The Liberty Canyon Wildlife Corridor will span the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills. Superhighways like the 101 and 405 slice through the natural environments of Southern California wildlife.

The Center for Biological Diversity is sponsoring the Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Act, a bill that would prioritize crossings and other infrastructure projects to improve wildlife connectivity.

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"It's one thing to sort of put stats up on a board," Pratt told LAist last month. "It's another one to see a mangled, dead, magnificent creature laid low by a vehicle. This is suffering on a grand scale, and when a mountain lion and a car meet, the car is gonna win."

The paws of a mountain lion rest on pavement
P-97's paws.
(Courtesy National Park Service)

After P-97 was hit by the vehicle, Caltrans workers took his body to the West Los Angeles Animal Shelter, according to Santa Monica Mountains officials. While they did not recover his radio collar, they were able to identify him by an ear tag and referencing GPS data from earlier that morning that put him in the area.

According to a post on Facebook:

"P-97 had recently dispersed from his mother, P-54, and was presumably setting off in search of finding a territory to call his own. Recently, he had been roaming around the eastern edge of the Santa Monica Mountains including along the 405. Biologists last captured him on January 11, 2022, to replace his GPS radio collar."

They said P-97 is the fourth mountain lion to be killed "in this general area of the 10-lane 405 Freeway."

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