Puma Crossing Clears Key Hurdle

Read on if you like mountain lions, pumas, cougars, panthers, Santa Cruz Mountains, wildlife crossings, Land Trust of Santa Cruz County.

by Hilltromper staff

Feb. 3, 2014—In a key step toward building a passage for mountain lions and other wildlife beneath Highway 17, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County has finalized the purchase of 10 acres on the east side of the highway near Laurel Curve. The deal was initiated last spring when a developer fell out of contract on the property.

The Land Trust will place a conservation easement on the 10 acres before reselling them, ensuring that development (or lack of it) on the land will remain compatible with a wildlife corridor. Additionally, the organization is looking at protecting two parcels on either side of the highway totaling 340 acres. Having large swaths of protected land on either side of a wildlife crossing is crucial, as it wouldn't do to have a strip mall spring up near a wildlife corridor outlet.

Read about the need for a mountain lion crossing under Highway 17

Though plans for the Laurel Curve corridor are still preliminary, Land Trust Project Director Dan Medeiros says it will be modeled after a culvert-style crossing planned for Lexington Reservoir, close to Los Gatos.

Wildlife biologist Chris Wilmers of the Santa Cruz Puma Project says the crossing is the "best opportunity for maintaining puma connectivity across Highway 17 in Santa Cruz County.” In other parts of California, mountain lion populations are showing signs of inbreeding because highways and other human development have shrunk their natural range.