Good News for Los Angeles Mountain Lions! CalTrans Pursuing Wildlife Crossing

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P22: the famous Los Angeles mountain lion featured in National Geographic. Photo by Steve Winter.
The now famous P22, the mountain lion who crossed two eight-lane freeways to find a new home, has captured the imagination of people in Los Angeles and beyond with his perilous journey and current plight. Trapped by the same freeways he crossed—he would not likely survive another journey –he remains in a small island of green in the middle of Los Angeles, unable to access the wild spaces he needs to find a mate. Yet his journey was not in vain, for it has reopened discussions about a wildlife crossing over one of the busiest freeways in the country, the 101, that would connect two areas of open space protected by the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area. Had the crossing been in place when P22 left his mother’s territory to find a home of his own, he might not have made such a dangerous journey.

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Three mountain lion kittens this year were killed trying to cross roads in the Santa Monica Mountains. Photo: National Park Service
Most mountain lions are not as lucky as P22–this year three kittens were killed while trying to cross the freeways in Southern California. During the National Park Service’s 12-year study in the Santa Monica Mountains and surrounding habitat, a total of 13 mountain lions have been struck and killed by vehicles. Many are young cats, like P18, a healthy kitten who grew up in the Santa Monica Mountains, yet was killed as a young adult while trying to cross the 405 near the Getty Center in search of a home. Without connections to green space, this population of mountain lions might not survive in the future. This week, the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) announced it would seek a $2 million grant as part of the Federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program to fund the design and engineering of the crossing. National Wildlife Federation provided a letter of support to CalTrans for this funding.

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A mountain lion kitten in the Santa Monica Mountains-. Photo National Park Service
Caltrans District 7 Director Carrie Bowen spoke about the benefits the proposed crossing would provide: “This new crossing will better integrate the environment and transportation systems, fostering better wildlife connectivity on either side of the 101 and increasing public safety by reducing the risk of collisions between vehicles and wildlife.” National Wildlife Federation launched a new campaign this year advocating for the construction of this crossing to give mountain lions and other wildlife room to roam. We have partnered with the Santa Monica Mountains Fund to help support the landmark research of the National Park Service about the mountain lions living in this urban interface, and to help build public support for the construction of the crossing.

National Wildlife Federation and National Park Service staff survey the site of the proposed wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon. Photo by Beth Pratt
The Superintendent of the Santa Monica Mountains, David Szymansk, thanked the National Wildlife Federation at their annual ScienceFest this spring for their assistance with this important project, and Kate Kuykendall, Public Affairs Officer, appreciates our involvement. “Whenever I share information about this project, the question I get over and over again is, ‘How can I help?’ Our official nonprofit partner, the Santa Monica Mountains Fund, is working with the National Wildlife Federation to help the public really engage on this issue.” We’re excited that CalTrans has placed such importance on this vital crossing and prioritized helping the mountain lions and other wildlife of the Santa Monica Mountains! Read the story of P22 and the other Santa Monica Mountain lions in “A Mountain Lion in Hollywoodland.” Donate-ButtonHelp mountain lions safely cross roads that cut through their habitat by donating to create wildlife crossings and protect wildlife across the nation.