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Mountain Lion P-61 Was Chased By Second Lion Just Before Being Killed On 405 Freeway

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A 4-year-old mountain lion who was struck and killed on the 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass earlier this month was being chased by a second mountain lion, officials said Wednesday.

P-61 was killed on the 405 Freeway between Bel Air Crest Road and the Sepulveda Boulevard underpass on the morning of Sept. 7. He was trying to cross the freeway from east to west.

Mountain Lion P-61 Was Chased By Second Lion Just Before Being Killed On 405 Freeway
This uncollared mountain lion's habitat appears to be east of the 405 Freeway. Video captured on the morning of Sept. 7, 2019, shows it chasing P-61 in the area east of the 405 Freeway. P-61 died while trying to cross the freeway that morning. (National Park Service)

Grainy surveillance video released by the National Parks Service Wednesday shows P-61 being chased by another lion about 50 minutes prior to getting hit.

At around 3:09 a.m. that morning, cameras captured him being chased and then climbing a tree. The second lion also scaled the same tree.

P-61 eventually climbs down. But then, at around 4 a.m., he is struck and killed on the southbound side of the 405 Freeway. He had successfully ran across at least five lanes of traffic before being hit, NPS said.

Just this past July, P-61 became the first GPS-collared mountain lion to cross the 405 Freeway in the 17 years in which NPS biologists have been studying mountain lion movements in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Biologists are unsure why he attempted to cross it a second time. The mountain lion chasing him was uncollared. Biologists say P-61 was likely being chased because he had ventured into the other lion's territory, which was east of the 405 Freeway.

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P-61, a 1 ½ year-old male mountain lion, was discovered in October 2017 on the east end of the Santa Monica Mountains. (National Park Service/Facebook)

"There's no bad guy in this scenario," NPS biologist Jeff Sikich said in a statement. "This is what male mountain lions instinctively do and it did not end up in P-61's favor," Sikich continued. "The difference is that this is real life mountain lion behavior playing out in an urban and fragmented landscape that is complicated by busy roads and development."

P-61 is the 19th mountain lion to be struck and killed on a roadway since NPS began the study back in 2002. He's also at least the third mountain lion to be killed in the Sepulveda Pass area. A young male was hit by a car there in 2011, as was another male lion in 2009.

A mountain lion was also hit and killed this month on the 5 Freeway near Castaic.

Researchers say habitat loss, inbreeding and isolation could cause cougar populations in the Santa Monica and Santa Ana mountains to go extinct within the next 50 years. To help combat this, the California Department of Transportation is working on a plan to build an $87 million wildlife crossing along the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills.

The overpass, slated for completion by 2023, would stretch 200 feet over 10 lanes of traffic, and would be equipped with vegetative landscapes. It would allow wildlife to travel between the Santa Monica Mountains and Simi Hills.

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