Mountain Lions Need Bridge Over Freeway

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(Steve Winter/National Geographic)

California mountain lions are in trouble. They are hemmed in on all sides by deadly freeways. A natural bridge over the 101 Freeway could be key to their survival. “Without increasing connectivity and basically building wildlife crossings like a tunnel or an overpass, I think the mountain lions here are definitely going to be lost,” Park Service wildlife ecologist Seth Riley told the Washington Post.

The Santa Monica mountains are the lion’s habitat and the range bisecting Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest megacity. The 101 Freeway cuts the big cats off from contact with other mountain lions to the north and east in the Santa Susanas and Angeles National Forest. This used to be one continuous habitat before rampant development took over.

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(Resource Conservation District/Los Angeles Times)

Wildlife advocates and state agencies say the answer is a green overpass near Liberty Canyon Road that would connect the Santa Monica Mountains on the south with the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains. The bridge, depicted in this rendering, will cost $60 million. A campaign organized by the National Wildlife Federation, #SaveLACougars, has raised more than $1.1 million, according to The Acorn. The state Coastal Conservancy stepped up and donated $1 million, according to National Wildlife Federation director Beth Pratt.  Another $100,000 was raised through private donations, online fundraising, school and event fundraisers, according to The Acorn.

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(National Park Service)

Freeways are deadly barriers for the big cats. Since National Park Service biologists began researching mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains in 2002, motorists have struck and killed a dozen of the big cats in the study area, including a male puma hit on the 101 near Liberty Canyon in 2013. Celebrity mountain lion P-22, often shown against the backdrop of the Hollywood sign, crossed two freeways without being killed and now lives in Griffith Park.



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