One of roughly a half-dozen mountain lions living in the Santa Monica Mountains was killed Tuesday trying to cross the 405 Freeway near the Getty Center at the start of the morning rush hour.
Circumstances of the death, apparently from a collision with a vehicle, were not known, and the California Highway Patrol said it had no record of an emergency call reporting an animal-related incident in that area Tuesday.
"We believe it may have made such a daring crossing attempt possibly because it was being flushed out of the area it was in by another male lion," said Woody Smeck, superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Smeck said the California Department of Transportation informed his office that one of the mountain lions the National Park Service had outfitted with a tracking device was hit by a vehicle near the southbound Getty onramp between 6 and 7:30 a.m.
The 15-month-old male, known as P-18, was one of three cubs born last year in the recreation area and had been tracked since it was a few weeks old. The juvenile lion started to roam east from its home range in Malibu Creek State Park earlier this summer, and Tuesday wound up in the southbound lanes of the 405.
Smeck said another mountain lion was killed crossing the 405 in the same area three years ago. The park service believes the Santa Monicas are home to six to eight of the animals, including the victim's father, P-12, and brother, P-15.
The father had better luck dodging Southern California traffic, crossing the 101 Freeway more than two years ago near the border of Los Angeles and Ventura counties. It has been detected in the Santa Monicas since then.
Smeck said the park service has talked to Caltrans about installing a fence near the Getty as part of the 405 widening project that would direct wildlife into an existing underpass. There has also been discussion of constructing a wildlife crossing over the freeway.
"It is clearly a challenge," Smeck said of the 10-lane 405, one of the busiest freeways in the region.
The park service has been studying mountain lions in the recreation area for about a decade. P-1, a fierce male and the first to be tracked, lost his radio collar last year, possibly in a territory fight with another male. Biologists don't know if he is alive.
Over the decade, researchers have tracked 21 mountain lions, most of which since have died, from natural causes, fight injuries or auto accidents. One died when he was hit on Malibu Canyon Road two years ago.
Smeck said there have been no documented encounters between humans and mountain lions in the Santa Monicas. During his two decades in the park, he said he has yet to see one.