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Roadkilled Lion in Santa Monica, California 
The Santa Monica Mountains in Southern California form a small patch of mountain lion habitat. Mountain lions are barricaded in by the Pacific Ocean and busy freeways on each side; nearly every lion that attempts to leave in search of a new habitat ends up road-killed. Those that avoid the freeways by staying put still have to compete with other cats for territory, and on some occasions this is a fight to the death. Lion habitat is shrinking drastically in this region of the state as human population and developments around Los Angeles and San Diego continue to expand.

Despite this difficult fight for survival, a tiny population of lions has somehow managed to survive in the Santa Monica Mountains. Last year, researchers announced three kittens had been born (see photos). They offered hope for a new generation and the continued existence of mountain lions in Southern California. Unfortunately, earlier this month one of the male kittens--now a dispersing juvenile--attempted to cross the 405 freeway and did not make it. He was hit and killed by a car. As more and more lions meet this tragic fate, wildlife groups and Caltrans are scrambling to plan (and find funding for) new wildlife crossings. Allowing lions and other critters to safely pass over or under our freeways, and keeping the patches of wildlands connected, is an important step towards ensuring the long term survival of all wildlife species. But we are running short on time.

For more information on this topic, listen to the On Air interview with Kim Vacariu about his work mapping and protecting wildlife corridors throughout North America.
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