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Mar 13, 6:49 PM EDT

Cougar makes rare successful crossing of LA-area freeway

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) -- The National Park Service says researchers have documented a rare case of a cougar from the Santa Monica Mountains successfully crossing U.S. Highway 101 to an area less hemmed in by Southern California sprawl.

The service said Tuesday it's only the fifth known crossing of the major freeway in more than 15 years of study. The mountain lion went through an underground culvert near where officials are planning to build a wildlife bridge over the freeway.

The adult male dubbed P-64 crossed through the culvert on February 28 about 45 miles (72 kilometers) west of downtown Los Angeles and is roaming the Santa Susana Mountains.

Male mountain lions need vast territories but the fragmented wilderness of the Santa Monica Mountains and the massive barrier of the 101 is a significant hindrance to dispersal.

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