Officials on Wednesday morning found the body of a mountain lion on the 101 Freeway in Calabasas, where it appeared to have been struck and killed while crossing the freeway.
“It’s always unfortunate when this happens…” the California Highway Patrol’s West Valley division tweeted along with an image of the cougar.
The cat did not have a collar so it may not be one of the dozens of local mountain lions being studied by the National Park Service, spokeswoman Ana Cholo told KTLA.
Vehicles have struck at least 21 mountain lions since scientists with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area started studying the area’s cougars in 2002, Cholo said.
“We are surrounded by freeways, roads and development, so this does happen periodically where mountain lions are struck and killed trying to cross roads,” she added.
Park Service officials plan to pick up the mountain lion’s carcass on Friday and conduct a full necropsy.
The NPS is working with the National Wildlife Federation to raise funds for an overpass that will allow the movement of mountain lions and other animals in the Liberty Canyon area of Agoura Hills. It’s one of the last places along the 101 Freeway that touches protected habitats on both sides of the road, according to the Park Service.
Construction of the overpass could start in 2021 if money is raised as expected, the agency said.
In April, state regulators granted Southern California’s mountain lions the temporary status of being an endangered species. Advocates had argued that development by humans has prevented the animal’s movement, therefore resulting in genetic isolation and low survival rates.
The Center for Biological Diversity believes the cougars will receive the status permanently next year.
“This mountain lion’s unnecessary death underscores the need for wildlife crossings and better land-use planning,” J.P. Rose of the Center for Biological Diversity said in a statement Wednesday. “While state wildlife officials have taken steps to temporarily protect these cats under the state’s Endangered Species Act, L.A. County continues to approve damaging sprawl projects that will block remaining wildlife corridors. California’s big cats deserve better.”
Earlier this month, Park Service scientists for the first time discovered kinked tails on three mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, an occurrence that has been linked to inbreeding depression.
A 2016 study co-authored by UCLA biologists predicted a 99.7% chance of extinction of the mountains’ cougars within 50 years if such inbreeding depression happens in the local population.