Los Angeles

Mountain Lion P-61's Amazing Feat: Crossing One of SoCal's Busiest Freeways

In an ongoing saga of the difficulty mountain lions face as they attempt to cross one of Southern California's busiest freeways, wildlife officials shared an amazing update Thursday: a 4-year-old male mountain lion, named P-61, crossed the 405 Freeway around the Sepulveda Pass area, after many others had been killed trying to do the same in the past.

P-61, while fitted with a GPS collar, managed to cross freeway lanes between 2 to 4 a.m. on the morning of July 19.

"Although P-61 successfully crossed the 405, his feat is a reminder of how challenging Southern California's road network is for mountain lions and other wildlife as well," said Jeff Sikich, biologist for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. "Others haven't been so lucky."

While the most famous cat to have crossed the 405 Freeway is P-22 -- who crossed both the 405 and 101 freeways, before creating a home for himself in Griffith Park, where he has been living under the Hollywood Sign for the last 7 years -- this crossing is notable because it is the first time in National Park Service's 17-year study of local cougars that a GPS-collared lion has crossed this 10-lane freeway.

P-22 was not collard at the time of his crossing. Another uncollared cougar, as well as a collared one named P-18 both attempted to cross this freeway over the last decade and were both hit and killed.

During the course of their study, National Park Service researchers have documented numerous mountain lions traveling right up to the edge of the freeway and not crossing. This research, and the data they will continue to collect from P-61's GPS collar, contributes to the ongoing effort to build a wildlife crossing -- the largest of its kind -- in an attempt to save the decreasing population of local mountain lions that currently face imminent extinction. 

P-61 is currently roaming an area where another uncollared male cougar resides, and cougars fight to the death over territory. 

"It will be interesting to see if P-61 stays in the area, whether he decides to challenge the uncollared lion or if he heads back to the other side of the freeway," Sikich said. 

Whether P-61 decides to fight for territory or turn around and take his chances by facing the freeway a second time, the big cat's near future will be a fight for his life either way.

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