Southern California environment news and trends

3 mountain lion kittens killed in traffic

P-32 inbred mountain lion

National Park Service

This file photo shows P-32, one of three cubs recently born in the Santa Monica Mountains. P-32 was found to be inbred, according to preliminary DNA evidence. Lack of genetic diversity is one of many problems facing local mountain lion populations. Another is traffic. In recent weeks, cars have killed three mountain lion kittens in Southern California.

Courtesy of National Park Service.

Wildlife experts are pushing for a crossing for mountain lions near the Liberty Canyon exit on the 101 Freeway, seen here. Roads, particularly freeways, are one of the major challenges to the long-term survival of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, and a crossing here would connect terrain to the north.

Courtesy of National Park Service

Mountain lion kitten, estimated to be a few months old, struck and killed by a vehicle on Kanan Dume Road on January 20.

It's not easy being a mountain lion in Southern California.

Three mountain lion kittens local to the region have died after being struck by vehicles in recent weeks. Wildlife experts in the mountains say the two separate incidents reflect the difficulty the big cats face in moving around an urbanized landscape.

“If we want to keep mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, we need a better system of wildlife crossings,” said Dr. Seth Riley, an urban wildlife expert at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Essentially, mountain lions in the region lack enough terrain over which to roam. 

Riley says Southern California’s mountain lions face more than just the danger of passing cars. Younger males require large swaths of territory; when roads are hard to cross, too many competitors bunch up rather than disperse, so mountain lions kill each other.

And perhaps the biggest problem at this point is genetic. With a population estimated at around 15 adults, mountain lions in this region lack the long-term genetic diversity needed to sustain the population. 

Park service researchers say a safe wildlife crossing along the 101 Freeway, near Liberty Canyon in Agoura Hills, could help the animals. They’re working with Caltrans, the Resource Conservation District, and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy on a project study report.

The park service says the estimated cost of a crossing would be $10 million – the biggest obstacle to removing obstacles for the big cats.

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