PhotoUrban areas are encroaching on wildlife across the world, and it has become a problem. Animals used to walk through the woods, climb mountains, and run through fields, but now they have dangerous freeways to cross and large urban areas to steer clear of while looking for food and shelter.

Despite its large freeway system and urban areas, the state of California has decided that it should step in to help protect some of their wild animals. They are doing this by making P22, a local mountain lion, the "poster child" for a new campaign that seeks to build the largest animal bridge in the United States. 

This particular big cat lives in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park, which is in the hills behind the iconic “HOLLYWOOD” sign. P22 has become famous for his ability to navigate the local freeways without coming to harm, but not every mountain lion has been so lucky. Another mountain lion, P32, was recently killed while trying to cross the 101 freeway; he was the 12th mountain lion to come to such an end in that area.

Originally, there were 15 mountain lions that were tagged at a young age that California authorities were keeping track of. They have found that the freeway system is a huge danger to these animals in more than one way. Besides the obvious risk of an accident, the freeway system pens in these mountain lions that used to travel all over the mountain ranges of California. One animal could travel as far as 250 miles from where they were born to mate and live out their lives. Now, they are confined to a much smaller area; this has forced inbreeding, which has damaged the gene pool of all mountain lions in the area.

Constructing an animal bridge

After being made aware of these facts, the state’s Department of Transportation decided it was time to step up and help these animals live safer and more natural lives. They have made plans to build a bridge that would cross over the 101 freeway, effectively allowing the mountain lions to spread back into the Santa Monica mountain region.

This structure would become the largest animal bridge in the United States. Other wild animals would be able to utilize it as well, which would increase the diversity of many of ecosystems in that part of the state.

The plan has been a hit with both public and private interests. “There has been an outpouring of support for this campaign that, in my 25 years in conservation, I’ve never seen,” said Beth Pratt, regional director of the National Wildlife Federation. 

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