Mountain lions, which typically roam a territory spanning 150 to 200 miles, will be among the main beneficiaries of the new overpass, providing safe passage from the Santa Monica Mountains, across the highway and into the Simi Hills. of the Santa Susana mountain range. . This week, an 18-month-old mountain lion recently separated from its mother and seeking its own turf was hit and killed on Highway 405, National Park Service (NPS) spokeswoman Ana Cholo told CNN.
The $87 million Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing is named after the president and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation, a family foundation that supports nonprofit organizations. More than 5,000 individual contributions were made, said Tony Tavares, acting director of CalTrans, the California Department of Transportation, noting that the crossing will also help protect motorists.
“We can protect California’s ecosystems without compromising transportation and other infrastructure development that we need for a growing population,” U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla said at the project’s groundbreaking ceremony on Friday.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, who was also there, pledged $50 million for other similar projects across the state, though not of the same size and scope. The Annenberg Wildlife Crossing is a partnership between the National Wildlife Federation and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and will be built by CalTrans.
“This project is truly amazing,” said Wade Crowfoot, California Secretary of Natural Resources. “We will look back decades and realize that this project galvanized a new era of nature conservation and reconnection.”
Because cougars require such a large territory, being relegated to an “urban island” surrounded by busy freeways has led to inbreeding and a lack of genetic diversity, according to the NPS, which studies cougars in the Los Angeles area. for two decades.
“You get stuck at the point where all you can do is hang out with your cousins,” Brad Sherman said of cougars, which thrive when they have a large territory to hunt and mate with. We’re “putting cougars back on Tinder”.
“I’m shocked to hear about a lack of food or sex in Hollywood, but for cougars, it’s true,” joked Rep. Adam Schiff, whose district includes the glitzy area.
California cougars are getting the lion’s share of attention for this crossing because their enclosure threatens their very existence, the NPS said. But it will also provide access to habitat for coyotes, bobcats, deer, snakes, lizards, toads, and even ants.
“We can coexist side by side with all kinds of wilderness instead of covering it up and smothering it,” philanthropist Wallis Annenberg said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “It’s about bringing more attention to an ingenious solution so that urban wildlife and ecosystems like this can not only survive, but thrive.”
The crossing will blend into the environment and be covered with soil and native plants. The Santa Monica Mountains Foundation has created a special nursery that will grow all the wildlife to be used to cover the crossing when it nears completion in 2025.