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Mountain Lions, Hikers Could Get a Tunnel Under the 101

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Experts who study the estimated ten mountain lions that live in the Santa Monica Mountains say they know why the cat known as P-18 was killed while crossing the 405 at the beginning of September--he was trying to find a home. Mountain lions, a devoutly solitary animal, need territories as big as 100 square miles each. The Santa Monica Mountains, surrounded by suburbs, freeways, and the Pacific Ocean, are so hedged in at this point that inbreeding might eventually kill off the population there, according to the LA Daily News. Since the National Park Service started tracking the animals in 2002, only one known male has moved into the mountain range. That lion (and his new genes) came from the Simi Hills across the 101 Freeway. Jeff Sikich, an ecologist with the National Park Service tells the LADN "There's really nowhere for them to go...They're almost trapped in this island of habitat." So Caltrans has been working with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the NPS to find wildlife crossing sites along the freeways and expand the mountain lions' potential habitat.

The Park Service has applied for a federal grant to pay for a $9.4 million project that would add fencing and create a 13 by 13 foot tunnel under the 101. And since wildlife usually cross at night, hikers and pedestrians could use the tunnel during the day. An LA Times article from the time of the P-18 accident says that the park service has talked to Caltrans about installing a fence near the Getty Museum to direct animals into an existing underpass--that could be done as part of the 405 widening project that would.

And by the way, there have been no recorded encounters between humans and mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, so an inbred mountain lion attack is probably not something you need to start worrying about.
· L.A.'s urban cougars under siege [Daily News]
· Mountain lion killed crossing the 405 Freeway [LA Times]