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Orange County

Cougar on Tollway Is Struck and Killed by Truck

A zoologist who had been tracking the animal says it's unusual to see one on the road.

August 19, 2004|Mai Tran | Times Staff Writer

A mountain lion fitted with an electronic collar and being tracked by the U.S. Geological Survey was struck and killed early Wednesday when it dashed in front of a pickup truck on a toll road in Orange County's foothills.

The cougar, an 18-month-old female that weighed about 120 pounds, was wearing a tracking device on its collar, similar to a global positioning system, officials said. It was one of two lions whose movements were being studied by the USGS in San Diego.

"It's uncommon to see them on the toll road," said Robert Fisher, a research zoologist who had been tracking the lion's movements for a year.

The driver of the truck, who was not identified, was not injured. He told officers that he was driving south on the Foothill-Eastern toll road near the Windy Ridge toll plaza about 6:30 a.m. when he hit the mountain lion, said California Highway Patrol Officer Katrina Lundgren.

The section of the tollway where the animal was hit cuts through the hills east of Orange and connects with the Riverside Freeway. The collision was in the area where an Anaheim woman was killed in May 1999 when she swerved to avoid striking a deer.

The death of wildlife on the county's network of toll roads was a concern in the late 1990s when more than 30 animals, including a dozen deer, were killed by cars on the new roads.

In response to the deaths, tollway operators built sturdier fences and constructed wildlife corridors that would allow animals to pass underneath the highway.

Fisher said it appeared that animals have avoided the toll roads in recent years. "The hope is that they're going through the wildlife corridors," he said.

The collar from the cougar will be sent to a Swedish company hired to download information from the tracking devices for research, Fisher said.

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