Beloved freeway-crossing mountain lion found dead following California fire
Prowling.
Prowling.
Image: national park service / flickr

It's hard out there for a smart cat in a dumb world. 

The National Park Service confirmed on Dec. 7 that a mountain lion, widely known for his ability to safely navigate the treacherous freeways of Southern California, was found dead following the Woolsey Fire. The "Culvert Cat," as he was affectionately referred to, was discovered by a National Park Service biologist on Dec. 3 — after the fire had been contained — with burnt paws. 

While the exact cause of death remains unknown, the possible effects of it are not. P-64, as the four-year old cat was officially designated, had previously given researchers hope that his travels might help end a human environment-abetted problem of inbreeding among mountain lions in the region. As it stands, reports KPCC, researchers fear that the mountain lions could go extinct in the area within 50 years. 

Paws.

Image: national park service / flickr

That's partially because, as KPCC reported in March, at the time the Culvert Cat was only the second mountain lion in 15 years that had been observed moving into the Santa Monica Mountains from across Highway 101.

And now he is dead. Because in this cruel world, if the cars don't get you then something else surely will. 

The Culvert Cat got his name when he was spotted on a motion-sensor camera exiting a — you guessed it — culvert that passed under Highway 101. He had figured out a way to bypass the busy road altogether. 

The cat in question.

Image: national park service / flickr

But there is one possible bit of good news in this otherwise tragic story. The National Park Service tells us that, although DNA tests are still needed to be sure, researchers believe P-64 fathered four kittens that were born in May of this year. 

Here's hoping the Culvert Cat passed on some of those street smarts. 

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