Contributions continue to roll in for the future Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing planned for the Ventura (101) Freeway in Agoura Hills—the effort just hit a big milestone.
An anonymous $1.4 million donation pushed the project over the $18 million mark, although the campaign goal is $85 million. Nearly 3,000 public and private donors have contributed so far.
Billed by the Save LA Cougars campaign as “the largest wildlife crossing in the world,” the planned bridge will span 10 lanes of the freeway at Liberty Canyon and provide a safe pathway for endangered mountain lions and other wildlife (everything from lizards to bobcats) that live in the Santa Monica Mountains to cross busy lanes of traffic.
“This anonymous donation is an incredible milestone and we owe it to people, we owe it to the public,” Beth Pratt, California Regional Executive Director for the National Wildlife Federation, said in a press release. “Caltrans has always been an incredibly supportive partner on this. They have told us since the beginning, they want to build it; they just don’t have a budget. So that’s where it was up to all of us to step up. And people have.”
The news of the donation came on the heels of another positive sign for the beleaguered population—the tagging of a new adult male mountain lion, now known as P-95.
The young male mountain lion, previously unknown to research biologists, was captured in the central Santa Monica Mountains on Jan. 16. He was tranquilized, examined and found to be in good health. The newly christened P-95 is estimated to be about 18 months old and weighed 90 pounds.
While biologists were conducting his medical exam, “chirping” was heard nearby and another cat was later spotted, causing the biologists to believe that P-95 was likely still traveling with a sibling or his mother.
He received a full medical welfare check, which involves collecting blood, tissue and other biological samples. His overall health was assessed—everything from the condition of his paws to his teeth. A GPS radio collar was placed on P-95, making him one of 10 radio-collared mountain lions currently being tracked by NPS scientists (seven in the Santa Monica Mountains, two in the Simi Hills and one in Griffith Park).
The study of local mountain lions in and around the Santa Monica Mountains first began in 2002, with the goal of determining how they manage to survive in an urbanized environment.
The Santa Monica Mountain population of mountain lions is threatened by inbreeding because their home is surrounded by freeways, resulting in genetic isolation. The big cats are expected to die off within 50 years from genetic abnormalities caused by inbreeding—unless something is done that allows them to expand their ranges and mate with cats from other areas. That’s the impetus for the wildlife crossing project: It will allow the big cats to find new mates and new territories.
The 101 overpass project is set to break ground in November. The wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon is a public/private partnership supported by a coalition of organizations, businesses, individuals and elected officials. The #SaveLACougars campaign was founded by a partnership of the National Wildlife Federation and the Santa Monica Mountains Fund.