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Mountain Lion Kitten Killed While Trying to Cross the 405

The mountain lion P-18 shortly after he was born in May 2010. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)
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A mountain lion kitten striking out on his own was killed Tuesday morning, while trying to cross the 405 just south of the Getty Center.

The National Park Service has been following the movement of this mountain lion born in the Santa Monica Mountains in May 2010 and equipped with a GPS collar. They named him "P-18."

The park service noticed this summer that the mountain lion was making his way east, away from his mother's home range in Malibu Creek State Park. A press release from the service explains that this is normal behavior for maturing young mountain lions:

Male mountain lions have an extremely large range of movement, and often seek out open space away from other male mountain lions as they mature. There are two other male mountain lions with GPS collars in the Santa Monica Mountains. It is possible that P-18 was attempting to disperse out of the Santa Monica Mountains to find unoccupied open space. Previous mountain lion tracking has shown that individual male mountain lions frequently move throughout the entire Santa Monica Mountain range, from the 405 to Camarillo on a regular basis.
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The problem is that P-18 came up against a deadly barrier this Tuesday: a freeway. Most mountain lions don't even attempt the crossing (and we did a story about one that made it to the 405 in 2009, but he didn't attempt to cross). Only one mountain lion has successfully completed a freeway crossing since the National Park Service began tracking mountain lions in 2002. In 2009, P-12 crossed highway 101 into the Santa Monica Mountains, where he has lived ever since.

Those freeways are posing a threat to the long-term survival of local mountain lions, said park superintendent Woody Smeck, in a press release:

Mountain lions must be able to move freely between large parklands with suitable habitat throughout the course of their daily movements, as well as exchange genetic material to prevent inbreeding in specific parkland areas like the Santa Monica Mountains.

That's right, P-18 was just looking to settle down with a nice female mountain lion who wasn't a cousin once or twice removed.

What's the solution? The National Park Service says Caltrans is working on a plan to create mountain lion crossings across the 101, 118 and 405, which all cut through mountain lion territory.