Mountain lions in Southern California will have a safer place to roam by 2023 thanks to an $87 million bridge being designed northwest of Los Angeles and spread out above the busy 101 Highway.

California is the only state in the country where shooting the creatures for sport is banned. But a March study published in the journal Ecological Applications suggested mountain lions could be extinct within 50 years if changes to their environment don’t happen.

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Animals were able to move around through different parts of the mountains until humans cut them off with giant roads,” said Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation. “GPS tracking shows that the animals are largely isolated in their own small areas, unable to mingle. Segmentation impacts animals both large and small: lizards and birds up to mountain lions.”

rendering of large grassy bridge over a highway

Once the project is completed, the wildlife bridge will connect various sections of the Santa Monica Mountains, hopefully giving mountain lions and other wildlife better protection. It is designed to blend into the scenery, so the creatures won’t know they are on a bridge.

Pratt stressed this ecological environment needs to be rebuilt for the sake of all animal welfare and thinks the wildlife bridge is a good idea. “This is an animal that is particularly beloved in California,” Pratt said. “We want these animals on the landscape, and the population will go extinct if we don’t do something soon.”

The project has been 20 years in the making, with the National Park Service closely studying the area during this time. It wasn’t until about a decade ago the idea became a reality; funds totaling $13.4 million have been raised by private contributors, according to The Guardian.

The project has caught the attention of actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who has been a supporter of the project, as well as other big names around the world. About 9,000 comments were posted in favor of the project, and only 15 were against it when the public was given the opportunity give feedback.

“We’re doing this in LA, a city of 4 million people,” Pratt said. “If LA can do it, it can work anywhere. Even in a giant city, we’ll make a home for a mountain lion.”

+ Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains

+ Clark Stevens

Via The Guardian

Design and images via Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains and Clark Stevens Architect/Raymond Garcia Illustrator