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Mountain Lion P-39 Killed While Crossing The Freeway, Leaves Behind Three Kittens

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While one of Los Angeles' mountain lions has been spared from death, another has met an untimely end. This week, the National Park Service confirmed that a mountain lion was killed while trying to cross the 118 freeway earlier this month.On the evening of December 3, a 5-year-old female identified as P-39 was struck and killed by a car on the freeway near the Rocky Peak exit. While rangers have yet to find the body, her GPS collar was found on the freeway earlier this week and National Park rangers suspected she was killed when her collar stopped working. She was last tracked in the area of the crash just hours before it happened.

"Navigating our complex road network is a major challenge for mountain lions in this region," said biologist Jeff Sikich of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Because of our vast network of freeways, getting hit by a car is one of the biggest threats to our local big cats. According to the park service, P-39 is the thirteenth cat killed while trying to cross Southern California's roadways since 2002. Researchers say P-39 had actually successfully crossed the freeway in the days before her death.

P-39 was killed less than a mile away from tunnel that goes under the freeway for hikers and equestrians, but the tunnel was not designed for wildlife. "We do know that mountain lions and other wildlife have used that tunnel in the past, but there is not enough fencing to direct animals into the tunnel," Ranger Kate Kuykendall told LAist. "I do think this highlights the need for wildlife crossings, whether a tunnel or a bridge."

Because of this threat, and the genetic isolation of the lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, biologists and conservationists have pushed for a wildlife overpass to cross the 101 freeway, connecting the Santa Monica Mountains with the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains to the north. Just last month, a key parcel of land was acquired that could make the overpass finally come to fruition.

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P-39 lived the Santa Susana Mountains north of the 118 freeway, where she is known to have had at least two litters of kittens. Most recently she was mom to P-50, P-51 and P-52. Biologists don't know if the kittens were with their mom when she was struck by a car, but their outlook is not bright. "Unfortunately, it's unlikely that the kittens have developed the hunting skills to survive without their mom," said Sikich.