Mountain lion P-81 was killed last weekend after likely being struck by a vehicle in the western Santa Monica Mountains, officials announced Friday.
The 4-year-old cougar’s body was found Jan. 22 on the Pacific Coast Highway near Las Posas Road, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area officials said.
A necropsy will be performed to confirm his cause of death.
National Park Service biologists had captured P-81 in the western Santa Monica Mountains in March 2020.
He was significant in the NPS’ mountain lion study because of his physical abnormalities: he had a kinked tail and only one descended testicle, officials said.
“These abnormalities marked the first physical evidence of potential inbreeding depression due to a lack of genetic diversity since we began studying mountain lions in the park in 2002, increasing the urgency of understanding, maintaining, and ideally increasing connectivity for wildlife in the region,” officials detailed in a news release.
The Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing currently under construction in Agoura Hills is a major step in connecting wildlife populations in the mountains with other populations to the north.
Sadly, vehicle strikes are the leading cause of death for the big cats in the NPS’ study area.
Since March 2022, nine mountain lions have died due to being hit by vehicles, six of which were radio-collared, officials said.
Late last year, famed cougar P-22 was euthanized after being struck by a car near Griffith Park. The cougar was being sought over concerns for his health and after he was implicated in two dog attacks.
“It’s heartbreaking to see yet another mountain lion die in the Santa Monica Mountains just a week before the celebration of life for P-22,” J.P. Rose, a policy director and senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “P-81 was already showing signs of inbreeding depression with a kinked tail. That he was killed by a car reminds us that we desperately need to build more wildlife crossings to reverse the extinction vortex affecting local mountain lions.”
The Center sponsored the Safe Roads and Wildlife Protection Act, which passed last year, to require wildlife crossings when Caltrans builds or improves roads.
The organization is also leading the effort to list Southern California mountain lions under the state Endangered Species Act.
P-81 is the 34th mountain lion, and the 13th radio-collared big cat, to die from road mortality in the study area since 2002.