THOUSAND OAKS ( — A $10 million proposal to construct a safe wildlife crossing on the 101 Freeway in northwest Los Angeles County could move closer to reality after three local mountain lion kittens were fatally struck by vehicles in recent weeks, officials said.

National Park Service officials reports the kittens were killed in two separate incidents. On Jan. 20, a kitten estimated to be only a few months old was found dead on Kanan Dume Road in Malibu. Two other mountain lions estimated to be 10 months old were killed Jan. 31 on State Route 126 in northwest Los Angeles County, according to officials.

KNX 1070’s Ed Mertz reports a total of 13 mountain lions have been fatally struck by vehicles in the Santa Monica Mountains and surrounding habitat over the course of the National Park Service’s 12-year study.

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“Roads are a challenge not only because mountain lions keep getting hit and killed by cars, but also because major roads such as freeways lead to reduced genetic diversity and also higher rates of lion-on-lion conflict,” said Dr. Seth Riley, an urban wildlife expert at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “If we want to keep mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, we need a better system of wildlife crossings.”

National Park Service researchers have called for the construction of a safe wildlife crossing near the Liberty Canyon exit along the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills, which they say is critical for reducing the impacts of the area’s extensive road network.

Scientists say after spending the first year or so with their mothers, young male mountain lions typically disperse to new territory in order to avoid dominant males.

Currently, the mountain lion population in the Santa Monica Mountains — which researchers say is boxed in by freeways, the Pacific Ocean and the Oxnard agricultural plain — is believed to be limited to 15 adults, far too few for long-term genetic or demographic viability.

“Mountain lions are very territorial, the young males, they want to get out and go to a new territory and get out of the way of the bigger lions,” said the National Park Service’s Kate Kerkendall. “But they can’t really do that very well here because they’re kind of trapped by our road network.”

Of more than 30 lions tracked during the decade-long National Park Service study, only one has successfully crossed the 101 Freeway, according to Riley.