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Second mountain lion near Los Angeles dies, a month after death of famous cougar

This Nov. 2014, file photo provided by the U.S. National Park Service shows a mountain lion known as P-22, photographed in the Griffith Park area near downtown Los Angeles. – U.S. National Park Service

(LOS ANGELES) — Another mountain lion near Los Angeles has died, over a month after P-22, a beloved local mountain lion who spurred conservation efforts, was euthanized in December after being hit by a vehicle.

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area shared the news Friday that P-81, a four-year-old mountain lion, died on Jan. 22 after likely being hit by a vehicle. Since March 2022, vehicle strikes have been the cause of death for nine mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains research area.

Researchers from the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area captured P-81 in March 2020 and equipped him with a radio collar. According to the researchers, P-81 was significant in their study due to his physical abnormalities, including a kinked tail and a deformed reproductive organ.

According to the researchers, those features were early evidence of inbreeding within the cougar population, leading to concern about the health of the animal population.

Researchers later found that the mountain lions of the Santas Monica mountains have some of the lowest genetic diversity ever documented, second only to Florida panthers in the 1990s.

According to the National Park Service, Los Angeles and Mumbai are the only two megacities in the world to maintain a population of big cats; however, the growth of roads and traffic have fragmented the cats’ habitats, and fast-moving cars have contributed to 34 fatalities of the animals in California since 2002.

Another mountain lion, P-22, became a local celebrity in Los Angeles, helping spur the creation of the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing over the 101 Freeway, which would connect marooned wildlife, including mountain lions, to populations north of the city without having to cross the busy freeway. P-22 was euthanized in December after beginning to act erratically, including killing a chihuahua and attacking other dogs. Veterinarians euthanized P-22 after learning he was hit by a car and had several other ailments.

P-22’s death came amid a public outcry of support for the famous big cat, whose rise to fame in a city known for its celebrities inspired a generation of conservationists. His death prompted a front-page obituary in the Los Angeles Times, with a headline of the Sunday edition proclaiming, “Improbable trek led puma to win Angelenos’ hearts.”

“P-22’s survival on an island of wilderness in the heart of Los Angeles captivated people around the world and revitalized efforts to protect our diverse native species and ecosystems,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

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