Posts tagged P-22

Photo: Katherine Montgomery

One of the reasons I love Los Angeles is its blurred line between urban and wild life. Hawks are often sighted soaring above the 101 freeway, and P-22, our Griffith Park resident mountain lion, has become a new kind of Hollywood celebrity. It is easy to champion these interspecies citizens from a distance, but we must also support their habitat as part of our community.

Living so close to wildlife is becoming unavoidable as humans encroach more and more upon their territory. I have encountered many coyotes on my early morning runs through Highland Park. A friend of mine just posted a video of a bear in his neighbor’s pool in Altadena. We’ve all seen the video of the mountain lion in a Los Feliz basement. These animals are charming, but they are also doing their best to live in altered and often hostile environments. As landscape architects and planners, it is our job to assess the impact of our proximity, and adjust our designs and methods to support coexistence.

Last weekend during an afternoon walk, my husband and I crossed paths with a coyote suffering from a serious case of mange. He was thin and disoriented, with barely any hair. A neighbor said he had already called the city wildlife hotline. Concerned about the coyote’s fate, I also called and was told he would be caught and euthanized. One more phone call to the California Wildlife Center, and I learned I could email their vet and request a dead, medicated mouse to leave for the coyote. With one to several treatments, he could be cured of the mange. Unfortunately, the city captured him first.

In the last few years, there has been increasing research on the link between wildlife mange and rodenticides. Even P-22 has suffered the negative effects of rodenticide. Many animals along the food chain are natural rodent predators, including mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats, as well as owls and hawks. All of these animals are poisoned second-hand when they eat poisoned rats, mice, or rabbits.

This month AB-2242 – a bill banning all anticoagulant first and second generation rodenticides in California – will be moved forward to the Committee of Water, Parks, and Wildlife for approval. You can submit a public comment by April 23 by following the directions on the Project Coyote website. This bill is also supported by RATS (Raptors Are The Solution) and Poison Free Malibu. Much like the historic ban on DDT that saved the bald eagle, this movement has the potential to save California’s iconic wildlife

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For local residents and visitors alike, Los Angeles can feel like a maze – a vast sprawl of neighborhoods intersected by a confusing tangle of freeways and overpasses. Now imagine how our local wildlife must feel trying to navigate these human constructed urban barriers while in search of safe habitat, food, and the increasing precious resource of water!

Lately, there has been a lot of news coverage about wildlife suffering because of inaccessibility across human infrastructure, whether it be declining populations of migrating monarch butterflies to the famously stranded local celebrity, P-22, the Griffith Park mountain lion. Various organizations have studied creating wildlife “corridors” and their positive effects on reconnecting wildlife populations to their natural habitat.

Banff_Wildlife Crossing_01_ copy

Last year I went to Banff National Park in Canada and got to see a wildlife crossing in person, one spanning across and underneath a freeway. In theory wildlife corridor connect vital habitats and allow safe passage across dangerous busy roads. I was curious whether they make an impact. Based on Parks Canada’s monitoring research, and in collaboration with other institutions, researchers discovered there was an initial learning curve animals had to overcome to begin using these crossings. It took up to 5 years before large animals like grizzly bears, elk, and deer felt secure enough to use the newly built crossings.

Researchers also discovered particular animals exhibited specific preferences for wildlife corridors: grizzly bears, elk, moose, and deer prefer high and wide crossings of shorter distances, while black bears and cougars prefer long, low, and narrow crossings. In time, these crossings have reduced wildlife-vehicle collisions by more than 80% inside Banff National Park.

Can similar wildlife crossings be implemented in Los Angeles to provide safe movement for animals, especially in a city where rapid urbanization has taken a toll on Los Angeles wildlife?

The National Wildlife Federation and Santa Monica Mountains Fund have started a campaign to create a safe wildlife crossing across the 101 freeway in Agoura Hills. This crossing proposes to connect the Santa Monica Mountains of the south with the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains.

Additionally, the UC Davis Road Ecology Center created a volunteer-based wildlife observation project inviting residents to submit roadkill observations. The data allows researchers to better understand the migration pattern of animals, and in turn, identify areas where a safe passage may be needed. Researchers believe with the current drought in California there may be an increase in the number of roadkill, as animals are putting themselves in greater risk in search for ever scarcer food and water sources.

So how can design help save wildlife?

Image: ARC Design Competition by HNTB+MVVA

Image: ARC Design Competition by HNTB+MVVA

Organizations like ARC (Animal Road Crossing) – an interdisciplinary partnership working to facilitate new thinking, methods, materials, and design solutions for wildlife crossing structures – is an example of design coming to the aid of wildlife. ARC began with the International Wildlife Crossing Infrastructure Design Competition in 2010 to engage innovative design teams of landscape architects, engineers, transportation, and ecological professionals to develop solutions for a next generation of wildlife crossing that would be cost efficient, ecologically responsive, safe, and flexible.

It will be interesting to see how Southern California reacts to effects of longterm drought on the local populations of wildlife which increasingly find themselves with nowhere to go.