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Mountain lion famous for crossing L.A. freeways found dead

For The Win logo For The Win 12/7/2018 David Strege

a dog standing on grass: File Photo

File Photo
© File Photo

A mountain lion known for its frequent crossing of Los Angeles-area freeways managed to escape the flames of the recent Woolsey Fire but was found dead earlier this week with severely burned paws, the National Park Service announced in a press release Friday.

The GPS-collared cougar known as P-64 had crossed the 101 and 118 freeways 41 times in the nine months the National Park Service tracked it.

The mountain lion was known to have used a long and narrow storm drain to pass multiple times under the 101 Freeway near Liberty Canyon in Agoura Hills. That was no small task since the drain is more than 640-feet long, is sometimes full of water and is completely dark because it bends along the way.

As a result, the mountain lion became known as the Culvert Cat. He crossed the 101 Freeway 14 times and the 118 Freeway 27 times.

"We know that he used the culvert under the 101 Freeway multiple times because we photographed him doing so, but we don't have any info on how he crossed the 118," NPS spokeswoman Kate Kuyendall told ForTheWin Outdoors

"P-64 was a fascinating cat to study because he crossed our notoriously deadly freeways dozens of times," said Jeff Sikich, biologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

"It's very unfortunate that he was seemingly so successful surviving in this fragmented landscape and then died in the aftermath of a devastating wildfire. It's of particular interest that he chose to travel back through a fresh burn area rather than retreat through urbanized areas to escape the fire."

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Sikich discovered the body of the mountain lion on Monday after hiking to the location of its last GPS point. The cougar was in Simi Hills on Nov. 8 when the fire broke out, and it continued to travel several miles throughout Simi Hills in subsequent days before hunkering down in a remote area.

"He basically had two options," Sikich explained to LAist. "He could have entered an urban area, where there's a lot of firefighters and noise and people fleeing and a lot of disturbance there, or choose to enter the burnt landscape - and that's what he did."

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will conduct a necropsy to determine the exact cause of death.

The NPS tracks 13 mountain lions. Of the 11 that were in or around the fire perimeter, nine survived and appear to be moving about normally. P-74, a young cougar, is believed to have perished.

Photos of P-64 courtesy of the National Park Service.

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