THOUSAND OAKS (CBSLA) — A mountain lion successfully accomplished a feat most humans would not attempt – crossing the 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass.
The approximately 4-year-old mountain lion became the first GPS-collared big cat when he crossed the major artery sometime between 2 and 4 a.m. on the morning of July 19, according to the National Park Service. Some portions of the 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass stretch across 10 lanes, and runs parallel to a similarly busy thoroughfare in Sepulveda Boulevard, between two heavily populated areas — West L.A. and the San Fernando Valley.
P-61’s successful crossing is in the same general vicinity where another mountain lion, P-18, was struck and killed by a car in 2011 and a mountain lion without a collar suffered the same fate in 2009.
“Although P-61 successfully crossed the 405, his feat is a reminder of how challenging Southern California’s road network is for mountain lions and other wildlife, as well,” biologist Jeff Sikich said in a statement. “Others haven’t been so lucky.”
Researchers are still unsure whether the mountain lion dashed across the highway lanes, found a culvert or used some other passageway to get to the other side of the 405.
“First of all, it’s a remarkable feat that this particular mountain lion figured out how to get across,” Kate Kuykendall of the National Park Service said. “We’ve had numerous other mountain lions who have come up to this same area and not even attempted to cross.”
The National Park Service tracks the mountain lion population in the Santa Monica Mountains, which is hemmed in by the Pacific Ocean and two heavily traveled freeways – the 405 and the 101. The limits set by the freeway impacts the genetic diversity of the local mountain lion population.
Researchers said once they figure out the mountain lion’s route, they will be able to figure out ways to improve passageways for other mountain lions.
P-61 is not the first mountain lion to cross the 405 Freeway, however. P-22, a rather famous resident of Griffith Park, was not collared when he crossed the 405, and DNA testing indicates he was born in the Santa Monica Mountains. Researchers say surveillance camera footage has shown another male mountain lion who has not been collared also lives in the same area between the 405 and 101 freeways.
Researchers will continue to monitor whether P-61 remains in the location or crosses back over, but they stress that the mountain lion’s movements do not pose a threat to those in the surrounding area.