Will L.A. Wildlife Bridge Be Built in Time to Help Save Two New Mountain Lion Kittens?

The New Year has started out with a bit of positive news for mountain lions in the Los Angeles area.

On Jan. 14, the National Park Service (NPS) released a photo taken in December of the mountain lion known as P (for puma)-22, who had appeared to be near death in April 2014 after ingesting rat poison. The new photo shows P-22 has made a remarkable recovery, and is now healthy and alert.

A week later, the NPS made another announcement: Two mountain lion kittens were discovered last month in a remote den in the Santa Monica Mountains.

The female and male kittens, now called P-46 and P-47, are believed to be the offspring of a female mountain lion known as P-19. Her GPS tracking device indicated she was in one location during a three-week period, probably staying with her kittens.

“We continue to see successful reproduction, which indicates that the quality of the natural habitat is high for such a relatively urbanized area,” said Jeff Sikich, a biologist for Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

DNA testing will determine the father of the kittens. It could be P-12 – who is actually P-19′s father – or a recently discovered lion known as P-45. P-12′s previous two litters were the results of inbreeding with her father, a problem caused by the lions’ limited habitat. According to the NPS, inbreeding is a “significant threat” to the long-term survival of area mountain lions.

“Our mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains … have the lowest genetic diversity ever recorded of any mountain lion population besides the Florida panther that went nearly extinct,” Sikich told the Los Angeles Times.

What may be the only hope for eliminating inbreeding and saving these mountain lions is to build a wildlife bridge across the 101 Freeway. A bridge would allow the lions to safely travel from the Santa Monica Mountains to the Sierra Madre Mountains north of Los Angeles. It would prevent mountain lions from being struck and killed by cars — another frequent cause of their deaths.

For years, plans and proposals have come and gone for a wildlife corridor. But coincidentally, the same day the NPS made the announcement about the new mountain lion kittens, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) finally held its first public meeting about a wildlife bridge to be built across the busy freeway.

“This meeting is to gather public input on their concerns, what they want us to look at, what they want us to study as we move forward,” Caltrans Senior Environmental Planner Barbara Marquez told KPCC.

There currently are two similar proposals for 165-foot-wide vegetated bridges crossing the 101 in Agoura Hills. The only difference is one proposal would extend the bridge so it also crosses another busy thoroughfare, Agoura Road.

“Without the addition of a wildlife crossing, the ecological and environmental impacts on wildlife movement that resulted from the original construction of US-101 will persist,” the Caltrans website reports. “The proposed project would also help mitigate anticipated future effects of climate change on the current distributions of species across habitats.”

The bridge, which will be the first of its kind in California, will cost a minimum of around $55 million to build. The majority of the funds will come from private donations, which Caltrans said it expects to collect by 2019.

The earliest the bridge could be completed is 2021, when those newly discovered kittens will be nearly 6-years-old — that is, if they manage to survive.

“These kittens have many challenges ahead of them, from evading other mountain lions, to crossing freeways, to dealing with exposure to rat poison,” Sikich said.

Like their mom, the kittens are now wearing tracking devices. Here’s hoping the NPS discovers them crossing that wildlife bridge five years from now.

Photo credit: National Park Service

98 comments

Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer10 months ago

I hope the bridge gets built and the animls use it.

SEND
Patrick W
Patrick W10 months ago

Let's hope that the environmental bridge will get built and in the near future!

SEND
Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

SEND
Monica R.
Monica R1 years ago

Please build this bridge. NOW

SEND
Cat Tkach
Cat Tkach1 years ago

HELP THEM!!!! BUILD THAT BRIDGE AT ONCE!

SEND
Tammy D.
Tammy D1 years ago

wait, wait, here's an idea: take all the money spent on campaigning for the US presidency and put it into making this bridge, and lots more. Then bar any more donations and cap all candidate spending at $5,000 until the elections. It's a win/win!

SEND
Tammy D.
Tammy D1 years ago

oh my goodness, they are amazing. How can anyone hear those little shrieks, purrs and hisses and not agree to build this damn bridge??! I thought it was a fantastic idea when i first read about it eons ago and still think it will make an incredible difference to so many. Just build the thing, already! Let Trump or whoever put their big fat name all over it. Divided natural habitats need to end. The info about inbreeding is accurate for a lot of species in lots of different areas. What happened to being good shepherds, so to speak?

SEND
federico bortoletto

Grazie per la condivisione....speriamo nella costruzione al più presto!!!

SEND
Marija Mohoric
Marija M1 years ago

tks for sharing

SEND
Jane R.
Jane R1 years ago

I wish there was a quicker way to get it built. Why not ask Mr. Trump? Oh, right, he'd refuse since it wouldn't benefit him.

SEND