Mountain Lion P-55, Famous For Crossing The 101 Freeway Twice, Has Died
Another of Southern California's threatened mountain lions has died.
P-55, a roughly 3-year-old cougar who made headlines earlier this year for making a house call in Westlake Village, was found dead by biologists with the National Park Service's Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area.
"He was a beautiful animal who survived longer than most males in the Santa Monica Mountains, but ultimately met his end at a relatively young age," NPS spokeswoman Kate Kuykendall wrote on social media.
The mountain lion was also locally famous for successfully crossing the 101 Freeway last August (actually he crossed the freeway twice). The NPS shared a video showing P-55 rubbing his cheeks on rocks, not knowing he's on hidden camera.
Exactly how P-55 died is unknown. The collar he was wearing didn't emit a "mortality signal," Kuykendall explained, adding that his remains were too decomposed when biologists finally found them. But researchers suspect the "seemingly healthy" puma may have been the victim of rodenticide poisoning.
This typically happens when cougars eat other hunters, like foxes or bobcats, that had eaten rats, squirrels or other smaller animals that ingested the poison.
Wildlife officials also said it's possible he lost a fight with another male mountain lion, though there were no signs of a struggle in the area.
P-55's home range was on the northwestern end of the Santa Monica Mountains, Kuykendall said, "generally west of Las Virgenes Road and mostly north of Mulholland." He had no known offspring, she later told LAist.
There are an estimated 10 to 15 cougars in the Santa Monica Mountains, and the small population is rapidly becoming inbred, researchers say. Within 50 years, the local lion population could go extinct due to inbreeding, according to a 2016 UCLA study.
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