Freeway fences helping protect mountain lions in Orange County

IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- Southern California has plenty of freeways, but not that many mountain lions. The concentration of one means a lot fewer of the other.

On the 241 toll road in Orange County, for example, 10 mountain lions have been killed since it opened in 1998.

But transportation officials are doing what they can to protect wildlife along freeway corridors.

The Orange County Transportation Corridor Agencies have installed six-and-a-half miles of fencing along both sides of the toll road to try to prevent the lions from trying to cross.

The fence also provides exit points and ramps just in case animals do manage to get onto the freeway area. The fence is 10-12 feet high to prevent them from jumping and two feet into the ground to stop them from digging under it.

Since it's been up, there have been no mountain lions killed by cars in that area.

The fence forces the mountain lions to use underground crossings when they want to move from one side of the freeway to another.

The freeway and the crossings are also lined with cameras that link to wildlife experts at UC Davis who monitor the cougar population around the clock.

The camera has been watching a mother mountain lion and her cubs.

"She had three cubs and we're able to see the cubs grow up over three years of time," said Valarie McFall, an environmental planner with TCA. "It's nice to know they're still alive, they're out here still using the area."

But with its $10 million price tag, the fence isn't cheap.

The concern though is that with 260,000 vehicles zipping by on Orange County's toll roads, officials want to make sure the mountain lions aren't the ones paying a toll.
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