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Mountain lion kitten struck and killed on 118 Freeway

Kittens of the mountain lion known as P-39 were found this summer in their den in the Santa Susana Mountains.
Kittens of the mountain lion known as P-39 were found this summer in their den in the Santa Susana Mountains.
(National Park Service)

A fluffy, blue-eyed mountain lion known as P-52 was recently struck and killed by a vehicle on the 118 Freeway — the same freeway where his mother was killed last month — wildlife officials announced Thursday.

The 7-month-old kitten died a few miles away from where his mother, P-39, was hit and killed on Dec. 3, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area said in a Facebook post.

Officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife collected the kitten’s remains and will conduct a necropsy in the coming weeks to determine whether the animal was otherwise healthy, according to the National Park Service.

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area said in a statement that although the death is a “very sad turn of events,” rangers hope their research can “shed insight into the lives of these animals and will inspire future conservatoin efforts to help wildlife move through the region more safely.”

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The incident is the 14th known case of a mountain lion being killed on a roadway in the region since 2002, the National Park Service said.

In June, researchers discovered P-52 among two litters of highly-photogenic mountain lion kittens born to two different mothers but the same father in the eastern Santa Susana Mountains. The father is believed to be a male mountain lion named P-38.

Researchers from the National Park Service found the five small kittens in separate dens in the large mountain range, which connects mountain lion populations in the Santa Monica Mountains and Los Padres National Forest.

Mountain lions in the area appeared to be reproducing successfully despite a variety of natural and man-made challenges, including busy freeway traffic.

P-52 was discovered on June 22 with his sister, P-51, living in a cave-like den beneath large boulders.

Their mother, P-39, had been tracked since April 2015. Images of the kittens, who were about 4 weeks old when they were discovered, were widely circulated online this summer.

P-39 was 5 years old when she was hit by a car east of the Rocky Peak exit near Santa Susana Pass State Historic Park. She had mostly remained in the natural area north of the 118 Freeway. But days before she was killed, she had crossed the freeway for the first time.

hailey.branson@latimes.com

Twitter: @haileybranson

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