In a rare case, a mountain lion was able to successfully make his way across the 101 Freeway near Thousand Oaks late last month, the National Park Service announced Monday.
There are only four documented instances of mountain lions crossing the freeway since 2002, according to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, which has been tracking the lions in the area for 15 years. Researchers have catalogued 17 roadkill deaths in the region during that time.
Before crossing on July 30 sometime between midnight and 2:00 a.m., the mountain lion was residing on the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains, the agency said in a press release. He's now roaming the Santa Susana Mountains after also crossing Highway 23 and the 118 Freeway, according to researchers.
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"The overwhelming pattern we've observed through GPS tracking is lions coming up to the edge of a freeway and turning around," said Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, in the release. "So it's really interesting to see another lion get across."
For researchers, the rarity of these freeway crossings highlights problems facing the area's mountain lions.
Zachary Behrens, a spokesperson for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, explained that the 101 Freeway cuts off the lions in the Santa Monica Mountains from other mountain lions in the region. With fewer options in the mating pool, the mountain lions in the area could eventually be at risk of endangerment or extinction due to a lack of genetic diversity.
With his crossing, however, P-55 could mate with other lions in the Santa Susana Mountains and help to diversify the gene pool, Behrens said.