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Caltrans To Spend $10M On Bridge That Will Allow Mountain Lions To Cross 101 Freeway

AGOURA HILLS (  —  Caltrans will build a $10 million bridge spanning the 101 Freeway allowing mountain lions and other wild animals access across the busy roadway.

The plan calls for the bridge to be built west of Los Angeles.

Biologists have long worried that mountain lions were in-breeding because they were cut off from other lions in the areas around Simi Valley and further north.

Caltrans also said the bridge would cut down on the number of accidents involving motorists and wildlife making the road safer for drivers.

Caltrans officials announced Saturday that they're looking for a $2 million planning and design grant from the federal government's infrastructure funding program to pay for the $10 million project.

"The new crossing will better integrate the environment and transportation systems, fostering better wildlife connectivity on either side of the 101 and increasing public safety by reducing the risk for collisions between vehicles and wildlife," said Carrie Bowen, the Caltrans director for Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Tracking devices have detected lions crossing back and forth over the Reagan (118) Freeway on a little-used road overpass at Rocky Peak.

The new 101 overpass or underpass would link two fingers of wild state parkland just west of Liberty Canyon Road in Agoura Hills.

Several lions have been killed crossing the 101 at Agoura Hills -- most recently last October -- and attempting to cross the San Diego (405) Freeway at Sepulveda Pass.

The latest known litter of cubs, born in the mountains above Malibu, was the product of a male mountain lion mating with one of his daughters, National Park Service Biologist Seth Riley has said.

"If animals can't disperse out, you may be more likely to get close inbreeding, and we've seen a number of instances where fathers have mated with daughters," Riley told KPCC radio last winter.

One male mountain lion managed to cross south across the 101 to seek a mate in the Santa Monica Mountains. He fathered a litter with one Malibu-area cougar, but later mated again with a cub from that litter, Riley said.

The lions eat deer, and biologists say they are an important part of the biology and ecological balance in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

There have been no attacks on humans in western Los Angeles County in recent years. In the past 20 years, two hikers were killed by mountain lions in Orange and San Diego counties.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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