Foes, Not Bros: P-32 Pushed Out of Area by Other Male Lions?

August 13, 2015 Posted by: Zach Behrens, Communications Fellow
P32 Necropsy
Dr. Seth Riley (left) and Joanne Moriarty prepare to conduct a necropsy on P-32. National Park Service photo.

You may have heard the recent news coming out of our mountain lion study. P-32, the puma who safely crossed a handful of Southern California highways, has died. He was found Monday morning on Interstate 5 near Castaic Lake after being struck by a vehicle. 

Sad news, but not surprising. Mountain lions in the Los Angeles region face a number of challenges to their way of life. In this case, it appears two of the most common may have collided: intra-specific conflict (that's to say, mountain lions fighting and/or killing other mountain lions) and habitat fragmentation. 

To the latter, busy freeways can be a major hurdle for the connectivity of traveling animals. The 101 has proven itself as just that time and time again. It's like a wall, separating the Santa Monica Mountains from hundreds of miles of open space leading north to the Bay Area. 

That's why it was big news when P-32 crossed the 101, from the Santa Monica Mountains into the Simi Hills. He accomplished something that we've observed only twice before in our 13-year study of over nearly four dozen lions. 

P32 Checking Out Camera
P-32 sniffs a remotely triggered camera in February 2015, just prior to dispersing from his mother. National Park Service photo. 

But why he may have crossed leads us to the other challenge: intra-specific conflict. Mountain lions need ranges of 75 to 200 square miles, with the males taking areas on the higher end. Males try to overlap with as many females as possible and don't tolerate competition from other males. (And in what appears to be an unusual case, P-1 did not share well, even with females. He killed two of his offspring and the mother of those kittens, among other mountain lions.) 

So it makes sense that P-32, still a juvenile at about 21 months old, was likely trying to avoid other males and eventually establish his own range. Getting across the 101 was the first challenge in that effort. It was not, however, the last. 

Map of P32's Dispersal Path
P32 Dispersal Path

Once past Highway 118 and the rolling Simi Hills, our GPS tracking shows another male mountain lion, P-38, was hot on P-32's tracks. Though it's impossible to determine intent based solely on GPS data, P-38 appeared to be closely following the younger animal through the Santa Susana Mountains until P-32 crossed Highway 126 in the Santa Clara River Valley. 

Free at last? Not so fast for P-32. We believe another mountain lion may have pushed him out (It was possibly the very large P-16, who also dispersed north of the 126 into Los Padres National Forest before researchers ultimately removed his GPS collar). And it was in that, possibly still searching for a home range, that he met his fate attempting to cross another busy freeway. 

The journey of young P-32 is one of some successes -- at least four freeways crossed! -- but it is ultimately one that reminds us of the many dangers they face, both human-caused and natural. If it isn't dodging cars, then it's rat poison. Or inbreeding. Or, in this case, hulking males not wanting to share their range with other dudes. 

P32 Paws
The National Park Service is awaiting lab results from P-32's necropsy, which will indicate, among other things, whether P-32 was exposed to rat poison. National Park Service photo. 

mountain lions, road mortality

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    what apitty...what happen with the lion..?

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    what apitty...what happen with the lion..?

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    sangat bermanfaat pak artikelnya

  9. March 16, 2016 at 07:58

    what apitty...what happen with the lion..?

  10. August 15, 2015 at 07:18

    A sad ending for a remarkable city-lion, as our son called P-32. There is (was?) a life-sized poster of P-32 at a NPS booth during this past year's Chinese Lantern Festival in downtown LA. We posed with it, then enjoyed using the photo to fool the neighborhood kids who thought we were hugging the real thing. Cool runnings, P-32. You inspired us.

  11. August 14, 2015 at 05:59

    P32, our hearts ache for you. Overpasses and culverts (as some carnivores prefer to travel under roadways) are desperately needed! But we should also think ahead and demand that movement corridors be conserved from development. If wildlife cannot travel from one habitat area to another, they are doomed: especially carnivores like pumas, with large home ranges and a critical genetic need to disperse. These cats keep systems in balance and effect flora, fauna, and water conditions. Every new development plan should be considered as it impacts habitat linkages…we are already far behind the ball on this. For a guide, see The California Essential Habitat Connectivity Project, funded by the Feds for CalTrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

  12. August 14, 2015 at 03:51

    @Char: We don't know anything about the driver at this time. @Cahikerchick: She's on the move and we'll have be sharing more info soon! @Patty: It was definitely a difficult decision to remove the collar, but as he had established a new home range, we wanted to use it to learn more about another puma.

  13. August 14, 2015 at 03:39

    @Lisa: Efforts are underway to make a wildlife crossing over the 101 in Liberty Canyon a reality. This area, around Lost Hills Road, is the last best area of freeway where there is habitat on both sides.

  14. August 14, 2015 at 03:00

    Such sad news. I am so sorry to learn of the death.

  15. August 14, 2015 at 01:11

    zach - most disappointing is that this was a hit-and-run (or so it sounds). How run down one of these magnificent animals, and then just keep going?

  16. August 14, 2015 at 12:40

    Thank you for all of this tremendous work you do. It is so very, very important. Even with this tragic loss, we have gained invaluable knowledge. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  17. August 14, 2015 at 11:54

    I think we need a trap and release program in place for the younger lions. Place them in an area where there is less risk of traffic and competition of other lions.

  18. August 14, 2015 at 09:56

    If you want to help LA's cougars, click on the link and make a donation to the fund for building a wildlife crossing over the 101 at Liberty Canyon!!

  19. August 14, 2015 at 07:01

    Sad news. Running from the big boys. Any news on his she still near Wildwood?

  20. August 13, 2015 at 11:32

    @patty I read that after 4 years researchers decided they had enough info on him and he established himself near lake piru

  21. August 13, 2015 at 10:32

    New to this site and it is so interesting and appreciated as well. Why did researchers remove P-16's GPS collar?

  22. August 13, 2015 at 09:44

    That's sad news. I had been so happy to hear that he crossed the 101. Are there ever discussions about creating a wildlife crossing over our some of our major freeways? I've seen them in Germany, and they are just awesome.

  23. August 13, 2015 at 09:44

    That's sad news. I had been so happy to hear that he crossed the 101. Are there ever discussions about creating a wildlife crossing over our some of our major freeways? I've seen them in Germany, and they are just awesome.

  24. August 13, 2015 at 02:48

    @ Julie: Captions should be fixed now. Sorry about that!

  25. August 13, 2015 at 02:16

    So sad. Exactly why wildlife overpasses are needed. Are the photos in this post of a different lion? They say 23 and the blog says 32.

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Last updated: August 13, 2015

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