In the 15 years the National Park Service has been tracking lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, there have been only four documented cases of a lion successfully crossing the Ventura (101) Freeway, and none have ever done it twice.

Until now.

Officials with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area confirmed Tuesday that a roughly 2-year-old male lion known as P-55 successfully crossed the freeway last week, marking his unprecedented second death-defying trek across the roadway.

“P-55 is full of surprises,” Kate Kuykendall of the National Park Service wrote in a Facebook post.

The lion crossed the 101 Freeway to the north in August, then went on to successfully cross the 23 and 118 freeways to roam into the Santa Susana Mountains.

“Last week he came BACK to the Santa Monica Mountains and cross the 101 Freeway again,” Kuykendall wrote. “We’ve never seen a mountain lion cross the 101 twice. And this time when he crossed, we believe he did so in a relatively developed part of Thousand Oaks just west of state Route 23.

“He is now back to roaming the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains, likely looking to avoid other males so that he can one day establish his own territory.”

Officials and activists hoping to protect the lions — and bolster their genetic diversity to improve their chance of survival — are advocating for construction of a landscaped wildlife crossing over the 101 Freeway in the Agoura Hills area.

A study released last year concluded that without an increase in genetic diversity, the mountain lions in the Santa Monica range are facing possible extinction within 50 years. Thanks to being land-locked by freeways, the lion population is hampered by inbreeding.

The problem was highlighted in August when NPS officials announced the birth of two mountain lion kittens believed to have been sired by a lion that is also their grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather.

–City News Service

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