Freeway-crossing Cougars Are Brave Cats

Two cougar siblings known as P-32 and P-33 have both successfully become freeway-crossing cougars within about a month of each other. The male, P-32 followed in his sister, P-33’s footsteps this week to travel into the Simi Hills of Southern California. The two pumas are some of the few of their kind that have been able to cross the busy 101 Freeway and State Route 23 to find new homes.

The pair of 17-month old pumas are also following the same path as their father, known as P-12, who was the first cougar known to safely travel the same route across the dangerous freeway. The cougar siblings are two of the over 30 pumas that have been studied since 2002 to see how these big cats adapt to an urban environment. Some of the previous animals were unfortunately killed on this dangerous roadway, which is devastating since the cougars are on the Endangered Species list. This is why researchers are happy that these freeway-crossing cougars made the trip safely to get to the Simi Hills area where they will hopefully find new homes and mates to help populate their species.

Freeway-Crossing Cougars Migrate to Diversify the Species

One of the reasons that these two likely became freeway-crossing cougars is because pumas travel to find mates and help to keep their species diverse by breeding with animals in other gene pools rather than their own family units. Due to this, the officials at the California Regional Center say that some sort of California cougar crossing should be built to accommodate the cougars in the area so they can cross the dangerous roads safely.

The freeway-crossing California cougars leave their childhood homes to try to beat the odds and find others of their kind. Many times, California cougars are killed by vehicles, or die due to starvation (especially since recent fires in the area have destroyed the habitat of their prey animals), or are killed by bigger, and stronger cougars fighting for territory or mates.

Out of the original 40 animals counted in 2002, there are only 10 or so estimated to be left. In fact, other than P-32, the only other male known to have safely made it across this busy freeway was their father, P-12. This is good news for the species and hopefully he will find a mate in his new area in the Simi Hills. Scientists think that P-32 will have a better chance of doing so in this area rather than if he had stayed in his childhood den area. In veering away from the mountains where they were born, these two freeway-crossing cougars will have a better chance of survival. This is a vital point in the continuing saga of the travel and future expansion of California cougars. There may be hope yet in getting them off that endangered species list someday.

Freeway-crossing cougars are at a disadvantage because roads are a dangerous place for all wildlife. Imagine if these road tripping young men met with a cougar: