The mountain lion who died after being struck by a car on the 118 Freeway near Chatsworth was confirmed to be P-39, an adult female who was the mother of three young kittens, the National Park Service confirmed Thursday morning in a news release.
P-39 was killed in Dec. 3 just east of the Rocky Peak exit, but the incident wasn’t reported to park service officials until several days later, the release stated.
Researchers had suspected she was the victim because her GPS collar stopped functioning; her last location was in the general vicinity a few hours before the crash, authorities said.
Jeff Sikich, a biologist with Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, located the damaged GPS collar in the freeway’s center divider, meaning it likely came off as a result of impact, the release stated.
Her remains have not been found.
P-39, who was estimated to be about 5 years old, had two known litters, including the 6-month-old kittens known as P-50, P-51 and P-52.
“Navigating our complex road network is a major challenge for mountain lions in this region,” Sikich said in the release. “Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the kittens have developed the hunting skills to survive without their mom.”
Researchers have been tracking P-39 since 2015. During that time, she had stayed in the area north of the 118 Freeway. She had successfully crossed the freeway for the first time a few days before her death.
It was not known whether the young kittens were with their mother when she died, but officials earlier said the trio was also tracked in the vicinity at the time.
P-39’s death marks the 13th known case where a mountain lion has been struck and killed on a freeway or road in the study region since 2002, according to the release.
Back in October 2008, an uncollared male mountain lion known as P-3 was also fatally hit near the same stretch of the 118 where P-39 died.
Southern California’s extensive road and freeway network have served to form a major barrier for local wildlife, particularly for the mountain lion population in the Santa Monica Mountains, officials said. To deal with the issue, a wildlife crossing on the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills has been proposed.
The crossing would bridge the populations in the Santa Monica Mountains and to the north.