Mountain Lion P-23 Struck and Killed on Malibu Canyon Road

One of P-23’s kittens four months ago. NPS says her latest two kittens are now one year old and able to fend for themselves.

Another local mountain lion has come to a violent end. The National Park Service (NPS) reported that five-and-a-half-year-old mountain lion P-23 “appears to have been struck and killed by a car on Malibu Canyon Road.” Her body was found off to the side of the road by officials last week by using telemetry on her radio collar, just north of Francisco Ranch Road/ Adamson Flat, one road north of HRL labs.

“Unfortunately, her life came to an end prematurely due to the challenge of navigating the complex road network in this area,” Jeff Sikich, wildlife biologist for the NPS, said in a press release.

“This is the 18th known case of a mountain lion being struck and killed in the NPS study area since we began our study in 2002,” Ranger Kate Kuykendall wrote on Facebook.

The NPS tagged P-23 with a radio collar in 2012, when she was only a few weeks old, and has been following her through the birth of three of her own litters. Her most recent litter included P-54 and one as-yet untagged kitten. Both kittens are now one year old and should be old enough to fend for themselves, according to the NPS. They say P-23 left her own mother just before she turned one.

P-23 became famous after being photographed by some cyclists with a deer she had killed on Mulholland Road back in 2014. 

“She tackled the deer and was dragging it into some dense brush where she could safely feed on it. She was just over a year old when she killed the adult male deer, showing that she was on her way to becoming a successful and masterful hunter,” the NPS described. “The cyclists were patient and respectful, stayed a safe distance from P-23, and didn’t disturb her while she dragged the deer off into the brush to feed on it; and P-23 didn’t disturb the cyclists.” At the time of the kill, she was known to frequent the western end of the Santa Monica Mountains around Point Mugu.

Because the Santa Monica Mountains are surrounded by highways that serve as a barrier to mountain lion dispersion, inbreeding has become a huge problem for the local population. P-23, like several other mountain lions in these mountains, is a product of first-order inbreeding, according to the NPS press release. Her mother, P-19, mated with P-12, who is both her father and grandfather. P-23 later mated with P-12, her father, in another example of this close inbreeding.

Life in the wild is tough. P-23’s first litter of two kittens was eaten by a male mountain lion. Her second litter was killed and eaten by another unknown animal.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which is responsible for overseeing the management and conservation of mountain lions in the state, will conduct a necropsy.

This is not the first time a big cat was killed on that stretch of roadway.

Back on Aug. 1, 2007, a car traveling northbound on Malibu Canyon Road about a half-mile north of Pepperdine University hit and killed mountain lion P-9 as it crossed the road—very close to the same spot that P-23 was just killed while crossing the road, none of which is marked with “mountain lion crossing” signage.