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Caltrans applies for funds to begin mountain lion overpass

Mountain Lion. California Department of Fish and Game.
CaliforniaDFW via Flickr Creative Commons
The agency has asked the government to help out with $2 million in a federal grant to help establish an overpass for use of the area's landlocked mountain lions.

Caltrans has applied for a grant to help it establish what might be the state's first-ever overpass specifically for the use of landlocked mountain lions and their subordinates on the food chain. 

The agency has asked the government to help out with $2 million in federal money, fittingly called a TIGER (Transportation Improvements Generating Economic Recovery) grant. The agency says it needs the money to look into a land-bridge that would cut down the number of mountain lion deaths on the roads, and enable them to cross easily over the highway.

"You have mountain lions that exist in the Santa Monica Mountains. And U.S. Highway 101 cuts their habitat," Caltrans spokesperson Lauren Wonder told KPCC. "They're crossing the highway and are exposed to traffic. They need a much larger area, as we understand, in order to survive."

The proposed crossing would span the 101 Freeway near Liberty Canyon Road in Agoura Hills, Wonder said.

She added that the proposed bridge would be used by more than just mountain lions, which could help spur diversity and ensure those populations don't suffer for the same reasons. 

"Keep in mind also that there are other species up there," she said. "There are deer, there are coyotes. there are other small animals — rodents — that these mountain lions feed on." If those creatures' populations decline, she said, "then you take out their food source."

The grant would cover the cost of producing an environmental review and designing the crossing, which Wonder said would help get the project under way.

The National Park Service has estimated that building the crossing would cost $10 million. The rest of that money would still have to be raised.

But, Wonder said, several organizations have already expressed interest in chipping in, such as the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, who have agreed to pony up around $200,000.

"This will not be built in the next year," she added.

Grant winners are expected to be announced by the year's end, and with around 700 other applications to contend with, there's stiff competition — especially as Caltrans failed to get the same grant when it applied two years ago.