Surveillance videos show mountain lion P-61 getting chased by a male uncollared lion minutes before he was struck by traffic and killed on the 405 Freeway early on the morning of Sept. 7, National Park Service biologists said.
The first grainy black and white video clip shows P-61 being chased by another mountain lion and climbing into a tree at 3:09 a.m. More than two minutes go by before the other lion climbs up the same tree where P-61 is perched. A second video clip from 3:35 a.m. shows a lion dropping down from the tree and running off, with the second animal following closely behind.
The third and shortest video, with a timestamp of 3:35 a.m., shows what scientists believe is P-61 as a blur crossing a road. He heads south and is adjacent to the 405 Freeway. The fourth and last video, with a timestamp of 3:36 a.m., shows an uncollared mountain lion briskly walking under the 405 Freeway, then following the freeway in the same direction as P-61.
Minutes later, around 4 a.m., P-61 was struck and killed on the 10-lane freeway. He had managed to run across at least five lanes of traffic but was killed in the southbound lanes.
“There’s no bad guy in this scenario,” said Jeff Sikich, a biologist with Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Sikich said the uncollared adult male mountain lion was likely protecting his home range, which appears to be to the east of the 405 Freeway. Over the last four years, Sikich said, an untagged male mountain lion has been captured on remote cameras in the patchwork of habitat between the 405 and 101 Freeways, which is assumed to be the lion that chased P-61.
“This is what male mountain lions instinctively do, and it did not end up in P-61’s favor,” Sikich added. “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.”
The fact that researchers were able to document this kind of interaction between animals is extremely fortuitous and provides a fascinating insight into their behavior, the biologists said. It is rare to catch even a glimpse of these secretive and often nocturnal animals, let alone see a significant event like this.
P-61, who was almost four years old, had initially crossed the 405 Freeway eastbound in the Sepulveda Pass area on July 19.
For information, visit nps.gov/samo.
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