Wildlife Crossing Update: A Look At Plans For The Massive Bridge To Span 101 Freeway

A rendering of the planned crossing. (Courtesy Living Habitats LLC/National Wildlife Federation)

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A rather big cat was spotted up a tree in Agoura Hills Saturday, sticking around for hours before heading back to nature. That mountain lion and others that live in the Santa Monica Mountain may soon benefit from a wildlife crossing set to break ground nearby next year.

The crossing will span 10 lanes of the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon and allow endangered mountain lions, as well as other wildlife, to safely travel. Many cougars are killed while trying to cross Souther California's busy freeways to seek a new place to live, find a mate or flee wildfires.

(CourtesyLiving Habitats LLC/National Wildlife Federation)

Beth Pratt with the National Wildlife Foundation says local pumas are in desperate need of mating with other cats not closely related to them, with inbreeding becoming an increasing issue.

"Genetic decline, which is the result of isolation from these freeways for these cats is getting so bad, that they're starting to show birth defects," Pratt said.

Robert Rock with the firm Living Habitats is lead architect and says the 101 divides two microclimates with different plants.

"This project offers an opportunity to kind of stitch those two spaces back together," he said, "and allow that transition to occur naturally."

The 101 Wildlife Crossing will be the world's largest and most urban. The bridge will be 165 feet wide and span 200 feet, in a habitat designed with native plant species to invite local wildlife. Caltrans is in the final design and engineering stages and construction is scheduled to take two years.

Caltrans is among five public and private organizations, including Pratt's, that came together to serve as the Liberty Wildlife Corridor Partners to bring the long talked-about crossing into reality.

The bridge is expected to cost at least $85 million, with the bulk of the funds coming from private donors.

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