'Sadly, this happens a lot': Injured mountain lion, struck by vehicle, is euthanized

The California Highway Patrol asked motorists to slow down after a mountain lion was found along westbound Interstate 80 near Applegate in Placer County on Monday, March 27, 2023. The animal was critically injured and subsequently had to be euthanize (CHP Auburn )

State wildlife officials said that an injured mountain lion on Interstate 80 in Placer County had to be euthanized, after it was struck by a vehicle on Monday.  

The animal was found in the center divide area of the freeway near Applegate at around 6:30 a.m., officials said. 

The California Highway Patrol posted a photo of the big cat, which appeared to be bleeding, as officers cautioned motorists to "slow down and be prepared to stop if traveling."

"It was critically injured and subsequently needed to be put down," California Department of Fish and Wildlife Information Officer Peter Tira confirmed to KTVU on Tuesday.

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Tira said the animal, later determined to be an adult female, approximately 5 to 7 years old, was taken to a wildlife lab in Sacramento for a necropsy, which was the department's standard procedure for deceased mountain lions. 

Wildlife experts said it’s not an uncommon occurrence for mountain lions to get struck by vehicles.

A new report from the University of California at Davis found that every year, roughly 70 mountain lions die in collisions with vehicles on state highways in California. 

The study noted that in recent years, that rate has declined. "This decline suggests populations may be gradually declining as rates of roadkill match population trends," researchers said.

The study also found that in regions, including the Bay Area, vehicle collisions with mountain lions were under-reported. 

Tira said that this was an opportunity to remind drivers to keep their eyes open and be aware of wildlife activity, especially during those hours when many people were commuting to and from work. 

"Sadly, this happens a lot in California, especially early morning and evening when wildlife are most active," Tira explained. "It’s a reminder to all of us to just be mindful on the roadways." 

This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.