Puma Profiles: The Trailblazers

Mountain lion walking down mountain side with Hollywood sign in the background.

Steve Winter, National Geographic

The renegade, trailblazing mountains lions of the Santa Monica Mountains paved the way for their kin. Habitat connectivity between mountain ranges offers mountain lions opportunities for long distance movement and the ability to establish home ranges and discover new mates.

The issue is that the Santa Monica Mountains are an island of habitat when it comes to animal movement. The ocean, development, and busy freeways are formidable barriers. Without true habitat connectivity across the 101 Freeway to other natural areas to the north, our local inbred mountain lion population will continue to have dismal genetic diversity, which is already some of the lowest documented in the country.

A wildlife bridge across the 101 Freeway will allow animals to move freely between large areas of natural habitat and increase genetic diversity in the Santa Monica Mountains cougar population, a critical need for long term species survival.

Studying lions outside the Santa Monica Mountains have helped researchers identify habitat linkages and wildlife movement corridors critical to the survival of lions and other wildlife in the region.

This research is the basis for what will be the largest wildlife crossing in the world. Construction for the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing in Agoura Hills began in 2022. It is expected to increase genetic diversity and make travel for lions (and many other mammals, reptiles, and birds) across the 101 Freeway a realistic endeavor.

When it comes to trailblazing mountain lions, P-022 is at the top of the list as the oldest male mountain lion that we have studied. He lived a somewhat unusual life because although most adult male mountain lions require at least 150 square miles of territory, P-022 made do in Griffith Park, an urban park tucked away in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles that spans only 9 square miles.

What made P-022 a trailblazer, however, is that he somehow crossed two major Los Angeles freeways – the 405 and the 101 – to get to his home beneath the Hollywood sign!

The first mountain lion to be captured for the study, P-001, was sometimes referred to as the king of the mountains because he used almost the entirety of the Santa Monica Mountains.

P-003 roamed the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains in the early 2000s and was the first lion to show us that safely crossing a freeway is possible. He successfully crossed the 118 Freeway at least 14 times!

First captured in 2008, P-012 is significant because a year later, he crossed south of the 101 Freeway near Liberty Canyon, where the world’s largest wildlife crossing will be constructed.

P-032 was the first male documented to disperse out of the Santa Monica Mountains to the north. He died trying to cross Interstate 5.

A young female cat, P-033, was the first mountain lion to disperse out of the Santa Monica Mountains.

At an estimated age of only three years old, P-055 managed to cross the 101 Freeway twice (he headed north and then came back to south of the freeway again!).

On July 19, 2019, P-061 crossed the 405 Freeway making him the first GPS-collared mountain lion to successfully cross this 10-lane highway during the course of our study.

P-063 is a male mountain lion that we originally captured as a subadult in the Simi Hills, and he has crossed the 101 Freeway a total of three times and has established a home range as an adult in the eastern Santa Monica Mountains.

Known as the “Culvert Cat,” P-064 crossed back and forth beneath the 101 Freeway for months. This cat figured out how to use this extremely long and dark culvert under the freeway in the Liberty Canyon area.

On August 21, 2019 P-065 made history when she became the second radio-collared female mountain lion to cross the 101 Freeway moving northward into the Simi Hills. She then crossed back into the Santa Monica Mountains a few months later.

Female cat P-077 crossed the 101 Freeway two times. She crossed south into the Santa Monica Mountains and then back north both times in the Liberty Canyon area.

After dispersing from his mother, P-078 left the Santa Monica Mountains and crossed the 101 Freeway (and other freeways),

P-090, part of P-065's litter in 2020, also crossed the 101 Freeway recently. Both times he crossed occurred at Liberty Canyon.

In addition to the “Trailblazers” listed below, learn about the Teachers, the Mothers, and Notable Deaths or return to the Puma Profiles page.


The Trailblazers

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    Last updated: January 20, 2023

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