Mountain lion P-54 was pregnant when struck, killed by vehicle

An adult mountain lion who was hit by a car and killed in June was pregnant with four kittens at the time, and all five animals tested positive for rat poison — the first time officials have been able to test cougar fetuses, the National Park Service said Wednesday .

The 5-year-old mountain lion, designated P-54, was killed June 17 in the Santa Monica Mountains. She was attacked around 9:30 a.m. on Las Virgenes Road between Piuma Road and Mulholland Highway, not far from where her mother was hit by a vehicle and killed in 2018.

At the time, P-54 was the 29th mountain lion killed by a vehicle since 2002 in the Park Service’s Puma study area — which includes the Santa Monica Mountains, Simi Hills, Griffith Park, and the Santa Susana and Verdugo Mountains — including 10 Löwen had been tied up and pursued by park officials.

P-54 tested positive in her liver for five anticoagulant rodenticide compounds. A sixth compound, a neurotoxic rodenticide, was found in their adipose tissue.

All four term fetuses were also exposed to anticoagulant rodenticides.

National Park Service researchers said 39 of 40 local mountain lions tested, including the four fetuses, showed the presence of anticoagulant rodenticides.

“This is the first time during our 20-year study that we have been able to test mountain lion fetuses for anticoagulant rodenticides,” Jeff Sikich, a biologist with the Mountain Lion Project in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said in a statement.

Researchers are studying how mountain lions are affected by the urban landscape they live in, Sikich said.

“Unfortunately, we learned that mountain lions are susceptible to rat poison even before they are born,” Sikich said. “In this case it is also unfortunate because the vehicle death of P-54 resulted in the loss of four other young mountain lions, two males and two females, who were about to enter the population.”

The collision with the vehicle caused traumatic injuries to P-54, including fractures to the ribs and left femur, which authorities said were the ultimate cause of death.

Her body was taken to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory in San Bernardino for a post-mortem and examination.

One of P-54’s earlier descendants, P-97, was struck by a vehicle and killed on the 405 Freeway near the Getty Center in April. This mountain lion was 18 months old, according to officials.

Lead scientist Tiffany Yap of the Center for Biological Diversity said the deaths proved California needed to invest in animal crossings for roads and highways.

“The devastating death of P-54 and her four unborn kittens is a morbid reminder that we are pushing our beloved cougars toward extinction,” Yap said.

A wildlife crossing over 101 in Agoura Hills that would provide a bridge for animals in search of food and mates is scheduled for completion in 2025. Mountain lion P-54 was pregnant when struck, killed by vehicle

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