Famous L.A. Mountain Lion Survived Woolsey Fire but Died Weeks Later

Amid the heartbreaking news stories about the Woolsey Fire that burned in California’s Ventura and Los Angeles counties last month was one glimmer of hope. The National Park Service (NPS) reported that even though the fires destroyed much of their home range in the Santa Monica Mountains, 12 of 13 mountain lions equipped with GPS collars survived the fire.

Among the survivors were two famous male Los Angeles mountain lions: P-22, who’s one of the most photographed, and P-64, who had managed to safely cross the area’s busy freeways more than 40 times within a nine-month span.

P-64 was last heard from two weeks after the fire, when his GPS collar transmitted signals the last week of November. He had roamed for miles across areas in the Simi Hills northwest of the Santa Monica Mountains that recently burned, searing his paws on the smoldering ground, before he hunkered down in a remote area.

“He basically had two options,” NPS wildlife biologist Jeff Sikich told the Los Angeles Times. “He either had to enter an urban area that had many firefighters, loud fire engines and people fleeing and a lot of noise, or retreat onto the burned landscape.”

After P-64′s tracking collar went silent, Sikich went looking for the mountain lion. He discovered his body Dec. 3, at the bottom of a canyon near a stream.

P-64 had been dead for a few days, and had severe burns on all of his paws. If the burns became infected, it would have been extremely painful for him to walk and hunt for food. A necropsy by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will determine the cause of P-64′s death.

Sadly, it’s not uncommon for mountain lions to survive wildfires and then die a few weeks afterward, Sikich told the L.A. Times.

More frequent and more devastating wildfires due to climate change aren’t the only life-threatening challenges that mountain lions in the Los Angeles area face. They suffer from health problems due to inbreeding – they must cross busy freeways to leave their limited habitat and mate with lions they’re not related to. There’s also the danger of ingesting rodenticides, which happens when the lions eat small animals that ate poisoned bait or larger animals that ate poisoned prey. Because of these issues, a 2016 study concluded that mountain lions in this area could become extinct within 50 years.

P-64, however, was the only L.A. mountain lion observed by biologists who managed to leave his home range at least 40 times. The four-year-old mountain lion got the nickname “Culvert Cat” for using storm drains hundreds of feet long underneath the 101 and 118 freeways to get across them. These culverts are not, however, a particularly safe way for mountain lions to cross freeways. They are dark and become flooded when it rains. It’s impossible for animals to see from one end to the other.

That’s what made P-64 so special. “It’s really interesting that this mountain lion figured out how to use this extremely long and dark culvert under the freeway,” Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said in March.

Take Action

One of the culverts P-64 frequently used is in Liberty Canyon in Agoura Hills, where the state is planning ti build a wildlife bridge crossing the 101 freeway by 2022. Please sign and share this petition urging the California Department of Transportation to get started on building this bridge ASAP. The sooner it gets completed, the sooner the lives of more mountain lions and other animals will be spared.

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. Youll find Care2s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

 

Photo credit: National Park Service

115 comments

hELEN h
hELEN h8 days ago

tyfs

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Louise A
Louise A10 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Greta L
Greta L17 days ago

tyfs

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Vincent T
Vincent T20 days ago

thank you for posting

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hELEN h
hELEN h21 days ago

tyfs

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Jeanne M
Jeanne M1 months ago

So sad.

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Gino C
Past Member 1 months ago

thanks

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Paula A
Paula A1 months ago

thank you for sharing

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danii p
danii p1 months ago

Thanks

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danii p
danii p1 months ago

signed

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