Environment & Science

7-month-old mountain lion P-52 killed on 118 Freeway

National Park Service researchers discovered two litters of mountain lion kittens in the eastern Santa Susana Mountains in June 2016. P-50 (male), P-51 (female), and P-52 (male) were born to P-39. A total of five kittens, three females and two males, were eartagged and returned to their respective dens earlier this month.
National Park Service researchers discovered two litters of mountain lion kittens in the eastern Santa Susana Mountains in June 2016. P-50 (male), P-51 (female), and P-52 (male) were born to P-39. A total of five kittens, three females and two males, were eartagged and returned to their respective dens earlier this month.
National Park Service

Seven-month-old male mountain lion kitten P-52 was recently hit by a vehicle on the 118 Freeway and killed, National Park Service spokesperson Kate Kuykendall told KPCC. That's the same Simi Valley freeway where the kitten's mother, P-39, was hit by a vehicle and killed on Dec. 3.

"This area is an area of a lot of undeveloped land, and so it's excellent mountain lion habitat between the Santa Monica Mountains and Los Padres National Forest," Kuykendall said. "Unfortunately, despite being great mountain lion habitat, it has a couple of major freeways and roads running through it."

P-39 was hit and killed just a few miles away, Kuykendall said. P-52 marks the 14th mountain lion killed on a road or freeway in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area study area since 2002.

The location of P-39's other kittens is unknown, and it's possible either one or both of them didn't survive to the point where their mother was killed, Kuykendall said.

"We've seen during our study that it's very difficult for kittens to survive into adulthood," Kuykendall said. "Generally speaking, just to be a wild animal, I think it's not easy to survive as a mountain lion in the wild. But that's particularly true in an area like ours, where there is so much habitat fragmentation."

Other risks they've seen include rat poison working its way up the food chain, as well as being preyed upon by other mountain lions — usually adult males, Kuykendall said.

"It's not easy to be a mountain lion in Southern California," Kuykendall said.

P-52's remains were collected by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which will be examined to determine the animal's health at the time of his death.

"They'll examine, for example, the stomach contents to see whether or not this was an otherwise healthy kitten, or whether he was really struggling to survive given the death of his mother," Kuykendall said.

Efforts are underway to build a wildlife crossing over the 101 Freeway, Kuykendall said — they've seen many more cases of mountain lions successfully crossing the 118 than the 101, with the 101 posing the largest impediment to wildlife movement in the area.

There is also a hiker/equestrian tunnel not far from where P-39 and P-52 were killed. Kuykendall said they'd like to see improved wildlife sensing in the area so that mountain lions can find that tunnel.

This story has been updated.