AGOURA HILLS (CBSLA.com) — Environmental activists and wildlife experts renewed calls Wednesday for a wildlife corridor under the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills after a young mountain lion was struck and killed.
KNX 1070’s Megan Goldsby reports that experts say preliminary DNA results indicate the mountain lion was traveling from the north and was on the verge of bringing new genetic material to the isolated cat population in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Wildlife advocates have long pushed for a wildlife tunnel crossing near the Liberty Canyon exit, where the lion — known officially as P-12 — was apparently struck and killed by a car.
Caltrans has twice come up short in applying for federal transportation funding for the $10 million project. The agency expects to submit another round of applications early next year.
Dr. Seth Riley, an expert on urban wildlife with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service, said a safe corridor is critical for maintaining genetic diversity in the area.
“The freeway has just become a huge corridor of development, and so unfortunately there’s very few places along the 101 where there’s natural habitat on one side of the freeway, let alone on both,” Riley said.
Scientists say after spending the first year or so with their mothers, young male mountain lions typically disperse to new territory in order to avoid dominant males.
Of more than 30 lions tracked during the decade-long National Park Service study, only one has successfully crossed the 101 Freeway, according to Riley.
Riley and his colleagues at the Robert Wayne Lab at UCLA and the Holly Ernest Lab at UC Davis have documented genetic differences in populations north and south of the 101 Freeway, as well as multiple cases of first-order inbreeding in which a father mates with his offspring.
“We think there’s just not enough room for more than 10 or 15 mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, and that’s just not enough in the long run genetically,” he said.
The mountain preserve is the largest urban national park in the country, encompassing more than 150,000 acres of mountains and coastline in Ventura and Los Angeles counties, according to officials.