Starting 20 years ago with P-001, dozens of mountain lions have been part of a National Park Service study to better understand how the big cats survive in Los Angeles’ urban landscape.
The study subjects are captured and fitted with GPS radio collars that provide researchers with detailed information about the mysterious animals, their habitat and how they get around.
P-022 was by far the best known, becoming the feline face of the NPS study and a wildlife education ambassador. The oldest mountain lion in the study, P-022 also was the James Dean of the study’s rebels, crossing two of LA busiest freeways on a perilous journey from the western Santa Monica Mountains to Griffith Park.
This select group crossed freeways in a habitat bound by the ocean and development. It is estimated that the mountain lion population in the Santa Monica Mountains could become extinct within 50 years without an influx of genetic diversity currently limited by freeway barriers.
Here are the freeway-crossing renegades. Click here to read about other mountain lions in the NPS study.
P-001, the Original King of the Mountains
Before P-22, P-001 was the first mountain lion captured for the National Parks Service study in 2002. The range’s dominant male at the time, he was known to roam almost the entirety of the mountains until at least 2009. He fathered several kittens and likely live to or beyond a mountain lion’s full life expectancy.
Mountain Lion P-003
P-003, who lived in the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains in the early 2000s, was the first to show researchers that a mountain lion could safely cross a freeway. P-003 crossed the 118 Freeway northwest of Los Angeles at least 14 times, according to the NPS. He used an underpass that serves as a hiker and equestrian tunnel under Corriganville Park. Captured and collared in 2003, P-003 died in the fall of 2004 due to ingestion of rat poison.
Mountain Lion P-012
Initially captured in 2008, P-012 crossed south of the 101 Freeway near Liberty Canyon. That location might sound familiar to anyone who has followed the story of SoCal’s big cats. It is the site of the $85 million Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, which will span the 101 Freeway when it is completed in 2025. It will be the largest crossing of its kind in the world — a fully landscaped passage for wildlife that will stretch 210 feet over 10 lanes of highway and pavement.
P-012 is notable for another reason — as of October 2015, researchers documented eight litters of kittens fathered by P-012. Unfortunately, several of his offspring are the products of inbreeding, which limits the impact of the much-needed genetic diversity he introduced to the area.
Mountain Lion P-022, the Hollywood Cat
Southern California’s most famous mountain lion live an unusual life. Most adult males need at least 150 square miles of territory, but P-022 lived most of his life in 8-square-mile Griffith Park area. Somehow, the offspring of P-001 journeyed from the western Santa Monica Mountains and crossed two major LA freeways — the 405 and 101 — and became Hollywood’s wildlife star. It’s a crossing that has killed other cats over the years.
P-022 was first documented in early 2012 by a camera trap. He was captured and fitted with a GPS collar in March 2012 and lived in Griffith Park since at least February 2012. Beloved by Angelenos, P-022 was never likely to find a female mate in the confines of isolated Griffith Park and the eastern Hollywood Hills.
On Dec. 17, days after being captured for a health evaluation, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced P-22 was euthanized. According to his health evaluation, P-22 had several severe injuries and chronic health problems. He was significantly underweight and had an eye injury that made officials believe he may have been hit by a car recently. Compassionate euthanasia under general anesthesia was unanimously recommended by the medical team at San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said.
Mountain Lions P-032 and P-033
P-032 was the first male mountain lion to disperse north across the 101 Freeway out of the Santa Monica Mountains. He did so in April 2015, becoming the second mountain lion to do so in less than a month after his sister, P-033.
Mountain Lion P-055
At just 3 years old, adventurous P-055 crossed the 101 Freeway twice.
Mountain Lion P-061
This big cat stunned everyone, becoming the first study subject to cross the 10-lane 405 Freeway in July 2019. Unfortunately, P-061 was struck and killed by a vehicle on the 405 Freeway in the Sepulveda Pass in September 2019.
Mountain Lion P-063
Captured in February 2018 in the Simi Hills, P-063 has been moving back and forth between both sides of the 101 Freeway.
Mountain Lion P-064, the ‘Culvert Cat’
Captured and collared in February 2018, P-064 earned his nickname ‘Culvert Cat’ when he used a storm drain to cross the 101 Freeway a day later in the Liberty Canyon area. He crossed back a few days later, then crossed the 118 Freeway twice. But he wasn’t done. P-064 crossed the 101 Freeway again, his fifth freeway crossing in 14 days with his new GPS monitoring collar.
During nine months of tracking, P-064 crossed the 101 and 118 freeways more than 40 times.
He was just 4 years old when his remains were found in December 2018.
Mountain Lion P-065
This female mountain lion became the second collared female to cross the 101 Freeway north into the Simi Hills in August 2019. Again, GPS data showed her crossing in the Liberty Canyon area of Agoura Hills. She eventually crossed back, and her remains were found in March 2022 in the central Santa Monica Mountains. Tests showed she was exposed to several rat poisons.
Mountain Lion P-077
Another Liberty Canyon crossing, P-077 made the journey twice. P-077 was first captured in November 2019 and is estimated to be about 3 1/2 years old.
Mountain Lion P-078
This male mountain lion crossed the 101 Freeway at the Conejo Grade in Camarillo. He also crossed Highways 23 and 118, and regularly crossed under the 5 Freeway along the Santa Clara River. He even entered Angeles National Forest before returning to the Santa Susana Mountains. The young cat’s remains were found in Valencia in December 2020. It appears he was struck by a car, and test results showed be also was exposed to rat poisons.
He was the 23rd mountain lion and the seven NPS study member to die from road mortality in the study area since 2002.
Mountain Lion P-090
Part of P-065’s litter, P-090 took after his mother and crossed the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon. He also was struck and killed by a car at age 2 on State Highway 33 in Oak View in Ventura County.