Environment & Science

8-month-old mountain lion P-51 killed on 118 Freeway

Researchers discovered two litters of mountain lion kittens in the Santa Monica Mountains in June.
Researchers discovered two litters of mountain lion kittens in the Santa Monica Mountains in June.
National Park Service via Flickr

Another young mountain lion, identified as P-51, was recently hit and killed by a vehicle on the 118 Freeway near Simi Valley, the National Park Service's Kate Kuykendall told KPCC . The kitten's mother, P-39, and her sibling, P-52, were struck and killed on the same stretch of road late last year.

The 8-month-old kitten's death marks the third time a mountain lion was hit by a vehicle in the area since December, and the 17th known case of a freeway killing around the Santa Monica Mountains since 2002, according to a statement from the Park Service. Her body was collected one mile east of the Rocky Peak exit on Jan. 14. 

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The necropsy by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife of P-52 revealed that while he was thin, he had fed recently, quelling public concerns that the kittens weren't able to survive on their own, Kuykendall said. Wildlife officials are optimistic that exams on P-51 will yield similar results. 

"Certainly, these two kittens survived anywhere from a couple weeks to six weeks on their own," Kuykendall said. "And it’ll be interesting to see what comes out of the necropsy from this latest kitten and see if she was doing OK on her own."

P-39 had a litter of three kittens, and said, so there’s a possibility that the third one is still alive, but she couldn't say for sure. 

A common suggestion from the public is to remove the mountain lions from the area to avoid this type of fatality, but Kuykendall said it's not that simple — it's against the state fish and game code to remove mountain lions from their natural habitat. 

“I don’t think removing kittens at this age, that have a shot of survival, from this really high quality mountain lion habitat... I don’t think that would be a choice that makes sense," she said. 

Despite the fact that more deaths have occurred on this stretch of the 118, the 101 Freeway is considered to be the larger threat to wildlife, Kuykendall said. Park Service researchers have documented multiple mountain lions crossing the 118, which shows it's less of a barrier. 

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“I would just encourage people to try and take this particularly sad case and turn that into momentum for supporting local conservation efforts including efforts to improve wildlife connectivity in this area," she added.