Our ambivalence toward the part of the world we cannot control, the wild, is one of humanity’s saddest contradictions. We entrap it and then celebrate its freedom; we kill it then lament its demise.
The puma known as P-32 died last week crossing Interstate Highway 5, near Castaic. He was moving, like so many migrants, feline or otherwise, because of population pressures in his home. The car that killed him was one of a hundred thousand that passed by on that road on that day, unaltered by the journey that it cut short. The driver is doubtless sympathetic toward California’s wild creatures, but lives in a society that challenges their existence.
Panthers from the Santa Monica Mountains, P-32’s country, face isolation due to the surrounding freeways, causing in-breeding and territorial aggression. P-32 set out as a juvenile to find more hospitable territory and represented one of the local population’s great hopes when he crossed the 101 Freeway into Los Padres National Forest last April. This would have allowed him to find a mate outside of his family. He was one of only two males confirmed to have successfully crossed the 101, and the only one to date that arrived in an area with female pumas.
All told, P-32 made seven successful highway crossings in his journey to and around Los Padres. In the end, probably because of encounters with territorial males, he struck out eastward and collided with the biggest freeway in the state.
In the future, we can hope for wildlife corridors, like the one that Caltrans, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Santa Monica Mountains Fund want to build across the 101. We should all support their efforts to raise funds for this massive project. In the meantime, one puma lost his bid for coexistence, and all we can do is lament.
By Brian Gruters
Try to imagine a deeper solitude
Than to die
Surrounded by sympathetic indifference.
Brian writes about science, conservation, and ways that people interact with nature for various publications, as well as his blog, briangruters.com. He is an aspiring surfer, member of the Southern California Mountaineers Association, and likes to explore mountains and canyons.
Quote of the week:
By John Keats
“The poetry of the earth is never dead.”