National Park Service photo of P-32
A young Santa Monica Mountains cougar tagged P-32 has become the first male — and the second mountain lion in the past month — to successfully cross the U.S. 101 freeway and leave the range for a possible new home. The National Park Service announced today that P-32 made it across the freeway on April 3, following his female sibling, P-33, who crossed less than a month earlier. The two lions are about 17 months old. Before these two young lions dispersed, the only confirmed crossing of the Ventura Freeway was a lion coming in from the north, a male also part of the ongoing NPS study tagged as P-12.
Dispersal of the young lions out of the western Santa Monicas is important because there may be too many adult lions confined in the shrinking wildlands of the mountain range. P-22, the celebrated male who prowls now in Griffith Park, also grew up among the cougars in the western Santa Monicas and when his time came to disperse he went east and somehow crossed both the San Diego and Hollywood freeways. The park service story does not consider P-22 to have made a successful dispersal, because he leaves in a very small area of habitat (by lion standards) bordered by freeways and city, and there are no females there for him to mate with. He is the lion who this month was discovered resting under a house in Los Feliz, before scampering away once the media left.
From the park service today:
“Almost all of the young male mountain lions we’ve studied die prematurely, either from a vehicle collision or after a fight with a dominant adult male,” said Dr. Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “It’s hugely significant that P-32 was able to disperse out of the Santa Monica Mountains so that he has a chance to avoid larger males and eventually establish his own territory.”
P-32 crossed the 101 Freeway early on the morning of April 3, less than a month after his sister, P-33, ventured across. Both animals crossed on the far western end of the Santa Monica Mountains, near the border of Thousand Oaks and Camarillo. Although the exact path is unclear, GPS data indicate P-32 crossed the freeway about one mile east of P-33. Biologists believe both animals dashed across the actual roadway, rather than through a culvert or other underpass. As is the case all along the 101 Freeway along the Santa Monica Mountains, there are very few suitable and safe crossing locations for wildlife in this area.
Unlike his sister, P-32 then navigated his way across State Route 23, near the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and into the core natural area of the Simi Hills. P-33, on the other hand, traveled right up to State Route 23 and turned around, returning back to near where she originally crossed the 101 Freeway.
The National Park Service originally marked P-32 and P-33, along with a female sibling known as P-34, when they were four weeks old. Now approximately 17 months old, these two were featured in a series of stunning photographs shortly before they dispersed from their mother.
P-32 and P-33 were the kittens the park service tagged and photographed in the mountains above Malibu in 2013 (right), and also photographed (below) eating a deer in the mountains this past February with their mother, P-19.