A female mountain lion has accomplished a rare feat after crossing the 101 Freeway this month. The animal's journey is the second one that researchers were able to document in more than a decade.
The National Park Service said that the 16 month old lion wildlife staff calls as P-33 left Camarillo area on the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains. P-33 is the second lion that managed to cross the freeway since researchers began examining the area two years ago to find out how animals are able to survive in an urban environment.
The first lion that accomplished the task happens to be P-33's kin. P-12 crossed 101 Freeway in 2009 albeit heading for the opposite direction.
"This young female recently did what no other big cat has done (at least of the 35+ we've tracked): she successfully dispersed out of the Santa Monica Mountains by crossing the 101 Freeway! P-12 crossed the 101 back in 2009, but she's the first to go from south to north," the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area said in a statement.
Researchers have yet to determine P-33's exact path but they believe that the animal crossed Conejo Grade on March 9 anytime between midnight and 2:00. Seth Riley from the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and her team that has so far studied 35 mountain lions, have been tracking P-33 and her two siblings since they were a month old.
Researchers said that the cat's journey offers some measure of hope for the survival of the region's mountain lions. Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy chair Linda Parks said that it is remarkable that P-33 made it across 101 alive. Another lion that ventured to the Liberty Canyon met a tragic end after it was struck by a vehicle.
"We are fortunate to have vast areas of undeveloped open space for these animals to roam," Parks said. "We need safe crossing locations for them to keep motorists and animals safe from collisions."
Scientists now hope that P-33 will be able to find a mate that is genetically unrelated on the other side of 101. Scientists have long stressed that ability of the animals to roam in new territories is crucial for maintaining the long term genetic health of their population.
"It's a pretty big deal from our perspective," Riley said. "It's just cool in that it's something we've seen very little and something so important for this population to do."