It's not easy being a mountain lion in Southern California.
Three mountain lion kittens local to the region have died after being struck by vehicles in recent weeks. Wildlife experts in the mountains say the two separate incidents reflect the difficulty the big cats face in moving around an urbanized landscape.
“If we want to keep mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, we need a better system of wildlife crossings,” said Dr. Seth Riley, an urban wildlife expert at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Essentially, mountain lions in the region lack enough terrain over which to roam.
Riley says Southern California’s mountain lions face more than just the danger of passing cars. Younger males require large swaths of territory; when roads are hard to cross, too many competitors bunch up rather than disperse, so mountain lions kill each other.
And perhaps the biggest problem at this point is genetic. With a population estimated at around 15 adults, mountain lions in this region lack the long-term genetic diversity needed to sustain the population.
Park service researchers say a safe wildlife crossing along the 101 Freeway, near Liberty Canyon in Agoura Hills, could help the animals. They’re working with Caltrans, the Resource Conservation District, and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy on a project study report.
The park service says the estimated cost of a crossing would be $10 million – the biggest obstacle to removing obstacles for the big cats.