LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles area mountain lion known for his wandering ways and surprise photo shoot with a remote wildlife camera has died while attempting to cross a busy freeway, officials said Thursday.
P-32, as he was known to wildlife researchers, had made a name for himself as a sort of expert at crisscrossing L.A.'s vast network of freeways to find new territory to claim as his own.
But that wandering came to an end when he was struck by a vehicle while trying to cross the 5 Freeway, his body discovered early Monday north of Los Angeles, the National Park Service announced Thursday.
At about 21 months old, P-32 was still a juvenile and was likely driven to roam in an effort to avoid death by larger males in the Santa Monica Mountain range and eventually establish his own territory, researchers said.
He was famously photographed in February by a remote-trigger camera in the Santa Monica Mountains with his sibling and mother, P-19, while feeding on a deer carcass.
At the time, he was just about to part ways with his mother and strike out on his own. And strike out he did, with surprising success.
He made a name for himself after crossing the fortress that is the 101 Freeway — one of L.A.'s busiest roadways that separates the Santa Monica Mountains from hundreds of miles of open space leading north to the Bay Area.
The successful crossing is a feat that researchers have only observed twice before in their 13-year study of roughly four dozen mountain lions, according to the National Park Service.
Mountain lions need ranges of 75 to 200 square miles, depending on their size. And according to wildlife officials, males try to overlap their territory with as many females as they can to increase their mating odds. To that end, they don't tolerate competition from other males.
P-32 ended up crossing at least four freeways — going as far north as the Los Padres National Forest — before getting struck by a vehicle on the 5 Freeway. The driver apparently did not stop. Wildlife officials think P-32 was likely being pushed out of the area near Castaic Lake north of Santa Clarita by an older, larger male when he was killed.
The National Park Service is now awaiting lab results from P-32's necropsy, which will indicate, among other things, whether he was exposed to rat poison — which can enter the urban food chain and pose a danger to mountain lions. The poison was blamed for sickening the mountain lion famously photographed below the Hollywood sign. That lion, P-22, was successfully rehabilitated, however.
Jason Wells is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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