Wildlife Crossings: Long Overdue

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Experts hope the bridge will enable mountain lions to find potential mates and increase the local population's genetic diversity (National Parks Service)

California Will Build the Largest Wildlife Crossing in the World

by Meilan Solly Smithsonian.com

A planned animal overpass set to stretch over Los Angeles’ 101 Freeway has entered its final design phase, Christopher Weber reports for the Associated Press. Dubbed the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing, the 200-foot-long bridge—expected to provide safe passage for lions, coyotes, deer, lizards, snakes and other wild creatures—is on track for groundbreaking within the next two years and slated to open by 2023.

According to Weber, the crossing will enable Southern California’s native wildlife to more freely roam the region’s urban sprawl. Currently, animals hoping to cross the highway are at high risk of becoming roadkill; as a result, most are essentially trapped in the Santa Monica Mountains, unable to venture out in search of food and potential mates.

This limited geographic range poses a particular threat to mountain lions. Per a study published in the journal Ecological Applications this March, two isolated populations in the Santa Ana and Santa Monica Mountains face extinction within the next 50 years due to low genetic diversity and mortality linked with human activity and environmental changes. By connecting solitary big cats with other members of the species, the Liberty Canyon overpass could curb mountain lion inbreeding and reintroduce genetic diversity to local populations.

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