Tuesday night, the Pacific Coast Highway claimed another mountain lion via vehicle collision near Malibu.
The incident occurring near Leo Carrillo State Beach around 7 p.m., according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“CDFW was immediately in touch with a local veterinarian to prepare for assessment and possible treatment, but video provided to the department by law enforcement indicated the lion had traumatic injuries,” offers Tim Daly, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, via CBS Los Angeles.
Sadly, the mountain lion would die from its injuries around 9:30 p.m. as specialists moved to contain and rehabilitate it.
Vehicle Strikes are Leading Cause of Death for California Mountain Lions
Unlike other recent (and notable) cougar deaths, this individual was not collared or being tracked by the National Park Service (NPS).
As NPS cites, vehicle strikes are the leading cause of death for mountain lions in P-81’s California ecosystem. On Sunday, January 22, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officials collected the body of another well known cougar, P-81.
P-81 was also hit on the Pacific Coast Highway, near Las Posas Road. Such busy roadways cut through the the western Santa Monica Mountains, which are crucial habitat for California cougars. P-81 was critical to both CDFW and NPS’ understanding of the species in this area. But his life was cut short by a vehicle strike that left him dead in the middle of the highway.
P-81 was around 4-years-old when he died. He was the 34th cougar to die from road mortality in this study area, and the 13th radio-collared animal, since 2002. His death came only a month after P-22, a fellow California mountain lion and famous ambassador for their species.
Positive Change is Coming for California Wildlife
Thankfully, the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing over the Ventura (101) Freeway is currently under construction. This Agoura Hills wildlife pass will be a “major and critical step” in enabling cougars and other wildlife to expand their territories. Critically, it will allow them to do so safely, out of traffic, and in a natural fashion.
The crossing will feature landscaping resembling surrounding habitat as it passes underneath the 101. It will span all 10 lanes of the freeway in Liberty Canyon, and stands to be completed in 2025.
This connection will provide new mating opportunities for the small population of mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, something the species sorely needs. P-81 was an example of this, as he was born with multiple deformities due to inbreeding.
As Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom host Peter Gros told me in our recent interview, California “was able to raise over sixty-five million dollars to build overpasses for wildlife.” In less than a year, such overpasses and underpasses are estimated to have saved thousands of wild animals; cougars included.
The habitat that once allowed P-22 to thrive “has doubled in size,” Gros lauds. “Wildlife can now transition and expand their habitat as they need to. This allows them to find mates and diversify the gene pool.”
For more on this issue, see the full interview here.