A young male mountain lion was struck and killed by a vehicle in a hit-and-run collision on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu on Wednesday morning, March 23. 

The male cougar, identified by his tag P-104, was the first mountain lion to be killed on PCH in the Santa Monica Mountains in the 20 years since the National Park Service began collaring and tracking the local mountain lion population there; the latest cougar to join the study, P-104 had been captured, tagged and released on March 8, just two weeks before his death on the highway. He was estimated to be around two or three years old, officially classified as a “subadult.”

The collision occurred around 7 a.m. Wednesday on PCH just west of Decker Road in the northern end of Malibu, according to NPS Public Affairs Officer Ana Beatriz Cholo. NPS staff came across the remains, which had been left in the middle of the road after apparently being struck by a vehicle that departed the scene without reporting the incident.

Law Enforcement Park Ranger Coby Bishop was out picking up a cup of coffee on Wednesday morning when he spotted the mountain lion’s remains on the highway.

“There were no cars stopped or anything and there were pieces of the car there,” Cholo said. “He [Bishop] said that it appeared that the car may have been going at a good speed, just based on what he saw: the remains of the mountain lion in the middle of the roadway.”

P-104, wearing a radio collar, had been tracked crossing PCH in the western Santa Monica Mountains several times in the days since he was collared two weeks ago, Cholo said. 

The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) announced the death of P-104 in a Tweet posted Wednesday morning, which featured a photo of the mountain lion’s bloody remains. Cholo said the graphic image was the most benign of the photographs captured by Bishop, and described P-104’s remains as having suffered “massive injuries.”

“He was very badly injured,” Cholo said, later adding, “My hope is that he just immediately died on impact and did not suffer.”

SMMNRA has been tracking the beleaguered local mountain lion population since 2002; in that time, 25 mountain lions have been killed by vehicles in or around the mountains, Cholo said. Most of those deaths have occurred on local freeways, including the Ventura (101) Freeway. The study also tracks poison ingested by the local mountain lions. P-104’s remains are en route to the UC Davis California Animal Health and Food Safety Lab in San Bernardino for a necropsy, which will indicate if any poisons were in his system, which Cholo said was likely.

emily@smdp.com