With so little open space and so much human bustle in just about every direction, it should come as no surprise that a 15-month-old mountain lion was struck and killed earlier this week while trying to cross Interstate 405, just south of the Getty Center southbound freeway off-ramp.
The male kitten, named P-18, embarked on his own earlier this summer after leaving his mother's home range in Malibu Creek State Park. His slow easterly progress was tracked via GPS collar by the National Park Service as part of a long-term study on the movements of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains. (P-18 is pictured above.)
Because male mountain lions are territorial and claim large wilderness parcels as their territory, and because there are two other male lions with GPS collars in the Santa Monica range, it's likely that the young male had been moving east, closer to civilization, in an attempt to stake out his own territory.
The death of P-18 underscores the need for safe wildlife corridor crossings, for wild animals to pass through rather than having to traverse freeways and highways.
In fact, Caltrans and several government and nonprofit partners are trying to identify suitable locations for such crossings along the 405, 118 and 101 freeways, according to a news release issued today by the National Park Service.
These crossings, intended to facilitate safe movement between the Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Susana Mountains and the Los Padres National Forest are deemed critical for the long-term health of mountain lion populations, and to ensure genetic diversity among the small population that exists within the Santa Monica Mountains.
"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," said park superintendent Woody Smeck.
Since the study began in 2002, only one lion has been documented safely crossing a freeway surrounding the Santa Monica range. Ironically, it was P-12, who sired P-18. He crossed the 101 Freeway in 2009 and has been in the Santa Monica range ever since.
-- Image shows P-18 as seen via web cam before he was killed while trying to cross the 405 Freeway. Courtesy of the NPS