It’s important for humans to learn to coexist with animal species. Far too often manmade buildings and structures interfere with local wildlife, destroying habitats and even pushing them towards extinction.
But one project in development aims to undo some of the damage—by helping some local big cats cross the road.
The 101 freeway in Los Angeles is a common travel route for many Californians, but it’s also hurt the state’s local wildlife by making it difficult for them to travel.
It’s especially hurt the local mountain lions: scientists have found that the freeway traps them in once space, making it difficult to go out and find mates, putting their population at risk. They could be extinct within 15 years.
“When the freeway went in, it cut off an ecosystem. We’re just now seeing impacts of that,” Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation told The Associated Press.
However, there is a solution, one that helps the animals get where they want to go without disrupting human traffic.
The plan: build a land bridge over the freeway.
It’s no small task: the bridge will cost $87 million, and will take until 2023 to complete, an engineer told AP.
But the project has received widespread support, and design plans were finalized last year. The project has been largely funded through private funding, while 20% comes from public conservation funds.
It’s an exciting new project for those involved: it’s the largest wildlife bridge in the world, and something unprecedented in an urban setting.
“Nobody has attempted to do a connectivity project like this, of this magnitude,” Platt told AP.
In addition to saving the mountain lions, the bridge will also benefit other animals like coyotes, deer, lizards, and snakes.
The 165-feet-wide bridge is meant to connect seamlessly with the hills on both sides of the freeway.
“Ideally the animals will never know they’re on a bridge,” said architect Clark Stevens. “It’s landscape flowing over a freeway. It’s putting back a piece of the ecosystem that was lost.”
Platt also said drivers might even get to experience the animals crossing overhead.
“This project isn’t going to bring more wildlife, it’s just going to ensure they don’t go extinct,” she told AP. “I think it’s cool that 300,000 people a day are going to drive under this crossing that wildlife will be walking over.”
“To me, that’s the perfect way people and wildlife can coexist.”
What a great project! We can’t wait for this bridge to be completed so these animals can finally go where they please.
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