First tracked mountain lion crosses the 405 Freeway in big moment for wildlife preservation


A mountain lion crossed the 405 Freeway in mid-July – the first time, according to the National Park Service, that a GPS-collared mountain lion has crossed the freeway near the Santa Monica Mountains during the course of a 17-year study by the Park Service.

The male mountain lion known as P-61 crossed the freeway in the Sepulveda Pass sometime between 2 and 4 a.m. on July 19. Researchers believe that another uncollared mountain lion has inhabited the area between the 405 and 101 freeways for the last five years.

For the record:

9:53 a.m. Aug. 9, 2019An earlier version of this article said the California Department of Fish and Wildlife was involved in the National Park Service’s study of mountain lions. That agency oversees the management and conservation of mountain lions in California but was not involved in the Park Service study

“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,” said Jeff Sikich, biologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.


The best-known example of a tracked mountain lion crossing the 405 is P-22. P-22 has lived in Griffith Park for more than seven years. But DNA testing has indicated that he was born in the Santa Monica Mountains, which means he had to journey across two freeways -- the 405 and the 101 – to get there.

While P-61 successfully crossed the 405, other animals have not been as lucky. In 2011, P-18 crossed in the general vicinity and was hit and killed by a vehicle. Two years earlier, an uncollared lion met the same fate. At least six bobcats were struck and killed by vehicles in the Santa Monica Mountains earlier this year.

The 2018 Woolsey fire may have played a role in the uptick in deaths as animals roamed larger areas to find food and water.

Freeways act as a barrier for the local mountain lion population. Of the 75 mountain lions that have been studied, researchers have typically found that many travel to the edge of freeways without crossing.

P-61 was first captured and outfitted with a collar in October 2017. He is believed to be approximately 4 years old.