California plans to build a bridge for wild animals to safely cross the 101 Freeway in Los Angeles by 2023, which will help to prevent its native wildlife from becoming roadkill and introduce genetic diversity among various species.

A cougar sitting in a tree
The bridge aims to provide a safe passage for mountain lions, also known as cougars. Image: step2626/Getty Images

Called the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing, the 165-foot-wide and 200-foot-long overpass has entered its final design phase and will cost $87m (€78.1m) to construct. It aims to provide a safe passage for southern California’s native wildlife, including mountain lions, also known as cougars, coyotes and deer, enabling them to move location more freely. At present, many are confined to Santa Monica Mountains, and this poses challenges related to genetic diversity and inbreeding.

The design concept of wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyo
The design concept of wildlife crossing at Liberty Canyon. Image: SaveLACougars

According to the #SaveLACougars campaign, mountain lions are at risk of disappearing from the mountains and are running out of time. It says that the National Park Service has been conducting a study since 2002 and has concluded that the biggest threat to cougars is the loss and fragmentation of habitat by roads and urban development. "Studies have shown these lions possess the lowest genetic diversity measured anywhere in the state, or in the country, outside of the endangered Florida panthers," it says. "Their long-term survival depends on their ability to move between regions to maintain genetic diversity and overall population health."

A cougar in a a forest
Solitary cougars can find it hard to find a mate. Image: Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

The overpass will be located at the freeway’s 33-mile marker and it will cross ten lanes of highway traffic. It will be vegetated to resemble a natural wildlife habitat. It will include features such as noise barriers and vegetation that will mitigate traffic noise, block light and blend the overcrossing with the surrounding natural landscape. It will also include an extension above nearby Agoura Road.

To learn more about the #SaveLACougars campaign, please see here.

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