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Massive Wildlife Crossing Inches Closer to Reality, Not Fast Enough for "P-45"

P-45, the male mountain lion suspected of killing several alpacas over the weekend. (National Park Service)
P-45, the male mountain lion suspected of killing several alpacas over the weekend. (National Park Service)
December 2, 2016

MALIBU, Calif. - The mountain lion known as "P-45" that is roaming the Los Angeles area now is in hunters' sights over the deaths last weekend of at least 10 domestic alpacas. It's just one example of the growing tensions between civilization and nature, prompting new interest in building a wildlife crossing over the busy 101 freeway.

State Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, said it would be the largest such man-made crossing in the world, over the major commuter route that bisects the state.

"Now the real work begins," she said. "The land is saved on each side of the freeway. We have to raise millions of dollars to construct an overpass over the busy 10-lane freeway."

Pavley and supporters of the project broke ground before Thanksgiving on the contentious 71 acres that would be the connecting point for a future land bridge over the 101. Opponents have balked at the ambitious size of the wildlife corridor, saying the land near the freeway had been slated for commercial development in the past decade.

Pavley said many types of wildlife could use a land bridge, since the freeway creates an artificial boundary that limits their natural habitat.

"And what happens if they can't crisscross it? They end up breeding and having babies," she said, "and then you become overpopulated and sort of trapped, if you will, in an area that becomes almost like an island."

What the project needs most is money, Pavley said, adding that tens of millions of dollars still have to be raised. The state transportation department will design and build the wildlife overpass, but the lion's share will come from private funds.

"So, we're not spending state money that goes for specific purposes like schools and roads," she said. "This is done through donations of people who think keeping some of Los Angeles County wild is worth the efforts."

The Southern California overpass might be the biggest but it wouldn't be the first. Colorado, Montana, Washington and some parts of Europe also have created wildlife corridors to promote better balance between humans and wildlife.

More information on wildlife corridors is online at blog.nwf.org.

Logan Pollard, Public News Service - CA