Mountain lion known for crossing freeways found dead after Woolsey Fire in California

Mountain lion known for crossing freeways found dead after Woolsey Fire in California
KSWB, Young family via CNN

P-64 lived by his own rules.

The approximately 4-year-old mountain lion was known for crossing the 101 and 118 Freeways northwest of Los Angeles, using a storm drain as his bridge. According to the National Park Service, P-64 made the trek more than 40 times. His crossings awarded him the nickname “Culvert Cat,” because of the culverts he used to cross the highways.

The big cat’s treks will be no more, though, as he was found dead Monday with burn prints on his paws. The discovery by a biologist with Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area took place weeks after the Woolsey Fire was contained. The Woolsey fire was one of three fires that ravaged California in November.

Kate Kuykendall, a spokeswoman for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said their group has been tracking the “Culvert Cat” since February. He was captured in partnership with The Boeing Company at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in the Simi Hills and fitted with a GPS collar, according to a National Park Service news release.

Five days after the Woolsey Fire was deemed 100% contained, on November 26, an NPS biologist located P-64 with telemetry device. Another GPS location was transmitted on November 28. The biologist, NPS said, hiked to the location where the lion’s location was alerted on Tuesday, where his remains were found.

The cause of death is not known, the National Park Service said.

He possibly leaves behind four cubs — “possible'” because DNA testing is needed — who were born in May. Kuykendall said because the cubs are uncollared, it’s unknown whether they survived, too.

P-64 isn’t the only recent mountain lion fatality. P-74, who wasn’t blessed enough to get a nickname, is believed to have died in the Woolsey Fire. His remains have not been found, Kuykendall said, but based on his GPS location during the fire it’s believed he died.

The park service says Los Angeles is one of two megacities in the world — along with Mumbai, India — where big cats live within city limits. The long-term survival of mountain lions in this region is threatened by many variables, one of the most prominent being infrastructure development. This can lead to deaths by vehicle crashes and inbreeding due to the animals not being able to move around as much.

Kuykendall says there’s an effort underway to build a wildlife crossing over the 101 Freeway near Agoura Hills. Once complete, it will be the largest wildlife crossing in the United States — stretching over 10 freeway lanes. The environmental compliance work is completed, and the crossing is expected to be complete in 2022.

Kuykendall said she hopes the crossing will improve connectivity among mountain lions, as they like to move to different habitats.