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P-32: Mountain lion who crossed the 101 killed crossing I-5

P-32 checking out a remotely triggered camera in February of 2015.
National Park Service
P-32 checking out a remotely triggered camera in February of 2015.

The only male mountain lion known to leave the Santa Monica Mountains and enter the more contiguous forests to the north, was struck dead earlier this week on Interstate 5, according to officials.

Puma 32 or P-32, as he was known, made headlines last April when he managed to cross the 101 Freeway, allowing him to possibly mate with females outside of his family.

On his journey, P-32 also managed to make it across State Route 23, Highway 118 and Highway 126. Crossing the I-5 however, proved fatal.

(P-32's dispersal path, National Park Service Photo.)

Based on GPS data from the large cat's radio collar, he was likely hit between 4 and 6 a.m. Monday.

His body appeared to have a broken leg and significant internal bleeding.

"I think he probably died fairly quickly,” said National Park Service ecologist Justin Brown.

At approximately 21 months old, P-32 was considered a juvenile and was likely fleeing stronger, aggressive males who were guarding their territory in the Santa Monica Mountains.

“This case illustrates the challenges that mountain lions in this region face, particularly males,” said Dr. Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

“P-32 conquered all kinds of freeways and highways to reach the Los Padres, but it was probably another dominant male that made him leave the area and attempt one last crossing, which obviously was not successful,” he said in a press release.

(Dr. Seth Riley (left) and Joanne Moriarty prepare to conduct a necropsy on P-32. National Park Service photo.)

Scientists have been studying pumas in the area since 2002, and P-32 was tagged at four weeks of age.

His sister, P-33, also crossed the 101 freeway earlier this year.

Perhaps the most famous mountain lion in Southern California is P-22 who currently lives in Griffith Park, crossing the 405 and the 101 to get there.

He is the only known male mountain lion born in the Santa Monica Mountains that has survived into adulthood, but his dispersal is not considered successful because he is isolated with no potential mates in Griffith Park.

Inbreeding is a big problem for the lions of the Santa Monica Mountains, according to researchers. They are genetically hemmed in by freeways and urban sprawl. In fact, P-32 was the product of in-breeding. 

Crossing from their native area to new territories is crucial for the animal's long term survival, however California freeways continue to be a deadly impediment.

P-32 is the 12th mountain lion killed on a freeway or road since 2002.

Conservationists have called for a wildlife crossing over the 101 Freeway to help alleviate this problem, but even this solution wouldn't completely eliminate the possibility of animals being hit by cars and trucks.

Biologists examined P-32's body  to learn about his health and whether or not the animal was exposed to rat poison.

They found that overall, before his death, P-32 seemed to be in good health.

(The National Park Service is awaiting lab results from P-32's necropsy, which will indicate, among other things, whether P-23 was exposed to rat poison. National Park Service photo.)