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California Freeway Gives Wildlife Chance to Roam

13.5 Million in Private Funding Has Been Raised

California Freeway Gives Wildlife Chance to Roam

Officials say the animal overpass will be the first of its kind near a major metropolis and the largest in the world.

Transportation officials and conservationists will build a mostly privately-funded wildlife crossing over a major Southern California highway. Wildlife experts hope the overpass will help fend off the extinction of mountain lions and other species. It will give big cats, coyotes, deer, lizards, snakes and other creatures a safer route to open space and better access to food and potential mates.

Officials say the wildlife crossing over U.S. 101 in Agoura, Calif. will be the largest in the world, stretching 200 feet above 10 lanes of the busy highway and a feeder road just 35 miles northwest of downtown L.A.

"When the freeway went in, it cut off an ecosystem. We're just now seeing impacts of that," Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation told The Associated Press.

Scientists have been tracking mountain lions fitted with GPS collars and have found that roadways are largely trapping animals in the Santa Monica Mountains, which run along the Malibu coast and across the middle of Los Angeles to Griffith Park.
"They can't get out of here to get dates, and cats can't get in to get dates. ... For those of us in L.A., having a romance prospect quashed by traffic is something we can all relate to," Pratt said.

Researchers say the result of the isolation is imminent genetic collapse for mountain lions. Habitat loss has driven the populations to inbreeding that could lead to extinction within 15 years unless the big cats regularly connect with other populations to increase their diversity, according to a study published this year by the University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, Davis; and the National Park Service.
According to engineer Sheik Moinuddin, project manager with the California Department of Transportation, the $87 million bridge entered its final design phase last month and is on track for groundbreaking within two years, and completion by 2023.

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November 18, 2019, 4:05 am PDT

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