World’s Largest Wildlife Crossing Breaks Ground in California

Mountain Lion California

The world’s largest wildlife crossing for mountain lions and other animals caught in Southern California’s urban expansion has begun construction.

Officials performed a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday to kick off building on a $90 million bridge that will span a freeway and feeder road 35 miles (56.33 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

“This wildlife crossing could not have come at a better time. It is truly a game changer… Today’s groundbreaking sets a path toward saving our local mountain lions and supporting the diversity of wildlife in this whole region,” said Jeff Sikich, biologist for the National Park Service.

The bridge will span U.S. 101 for 200 feet (61 meters), providing a safe passage to the surrounding Santa Monica Mountains for large cats, coyotes, deer, and other species. It will be dubbed the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing in honor of the philanthropist whose foundation gave $25 million to the project.

The 101 in Agoura Hills, a small city surrounded by a patchwork of protected wilderness that the new crossing will connect, sees about 300,000 automobiles every day.

Mountain lion P-22, who went across freeways and made his home in a large Los Angeles park, was the hero of the fundraising effort to build the bridge. P-22 became a symbol of the shrinking genetic diversity of wild animals that must remain all but trapped by sprawling development or risk becoming roadkill. While he is unlikely to use the span because he lives many miles away, he became a symbol of the shrinking genetic diversity of wild animals that must remain all but trapped by sprawling development or risk becoming roadkill.

Mountains that run along the Malibu coast and over the middle of Los Angeles to Griffith Park, where P-22 landed, have been mainly trapping animals for decades, according to scientists following mountain lions fitted with GPS collars.

A mountain lion was struck and killed on a nearby motorway on Thursday. These deaths, according to J.P. Rose, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, might be avoided if the state invests in more wildlife bridges.

In Western Europe and Canada, wildlife crossings – bridges and tunnels — are ubiquitous. Bears, moose, and elk visit one at Banff National Park in Alberta, which crosses the Trans-Canada Highway.

Cara Lacey, project director for the Nature Conservancy’s wildlife corridors and crossings project, said her group has been sketching out other wildlife crossings that she hopes can be created so animals may find partners and food supplies.

“We can do this everywhere… We and our partners have a vision for reconnected California where wildlife does not have to compete with cars to cross roads,” Lacey said.

Source: “California breaks ground on largest wildlife crossing in the world” by SFGATE

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