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Josh Patterson, one of our most talented and enthusiastic volunteers, provides a visual essay into his observations and experiences in helping the Wildlife Waystation through the recent Sand Fire evacuation. 

Wildlife Waystation and the Sand Fire by Josh Patterson

 

Namibia

The Confusing World of the Liger

 

Imagine you are born from two species but belong to neither. Imagine that your mother’s species consists of lone hunters living a solitary life outside of the mating season, while your father’s species lives in highly social family groups. Imagine that one roams the jungles, wetlands and even mountain slopes of Asia while the other is largely confined to the savannahs of Africa. How confusing the liger’s heritage must be.

The liger is a hybrid cross between a male lion and a female tiger; both are in the genus Panthera but of the species leo and tigris respectively. The hybrid tigon (tion, tigron, tiglon) is born from a male tiger and female lion.

The liger is the largest of all the felids, adults often standing taller and weighing more than both parent species. This is thought to be the result of an evolutionary breeding strategy. In a pride of lions, where more than one male might mate with a female, the males pass on a growth-promoting gene for their offspring to out-grow competitors, while the lionesses adds a growth-inhibiting gene to compensate. Tigers on the other hand are solitary animals. A tigress will usually only mate with one male without a biological need for growth-promoting/inhibiting genes, thus ligers grow big while tigons are often the same size as a female tiger.

Lions and tigers are separated by about seven million years of evolution. Ligers exist only in captivity because the habitats of the parental species do not overlap in the wild. Historically, the range of the Asiatic lion, now confined to India’s Gir National Forest with about 500 surviving individuals, did overlap with that of tigers and legends of ligers existing in the wild do exist. These myths are mostly propagated by liger breeders in the US trying to justify their practices; there is however no scientific evidence to support these claims.

Craig Packer, director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota, said in a 2012 National Geographic article: “Not only are wild lion and tiger populations separated by geography, there are certain behavior mechanisms in place that would prevent the two species from mating. […] If a tiger tried to mate with a female lion it would be chased away by the other lions pretty fast, and vice versa.”

Hybrids do occur in nature. There is scientific proof of blue-fin whale hybrids, grizzly-polar bear hybrids and Galapagos marine-land iguana hybrids, to name a few, but these are rare. There is no proof that ligers have ever existed in the wild.

Lion-tiger hybrids were brought in to existence at least by the late 18th, early 19th century in India and are depicted in a few paintings and engravings of that time. Two liger cubs born in 1837 were exhibited to King William IV and his successor Queen Victoria. German wild-animal trader and circus owner Carl Hagenbeck had at least two ligers born in his zoo, Hagenbeck's Tierpark in Hamburg, in May 1897. In 1935, four ligers from two litters were reared in the Zoological Gardens of Bloemfontein, South Africa. Shasta, was the first American liger. She was born at the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City on May 14, 1948 and died in 1972 at the age of 24.

Today the USA holds the largest number of ligers, around 30, followed by China with maybe 20 and South Korea, Germany, Russia and South Africa each have a few. There probably exist less than 100 worldwide.

Ligers and tigons were long thought to be sterile, but some female ligers have produced offspring. In September 2012, the Russian Novosibirsk Zoo announced the birth of ‘liliger’ Kiara, born of a liger mother and a lion father.

Ligers have a tiger-like striped pattern that is very faint upon a tan lion-colored background. The abdominal area might be spotted; spots inherited from the lion parent, but usually only apparent on lion cubs. A male liger may have a modest leonine mane and tiger ear spots and tiger facial ruff may or may not be present in either sex. Ligers usually chuff like a tiger and roar like a lion, but without the lion grunt at the end. They usually inherit the tiger’s love of water.

One of the ligers in the photos, Namibia, came to Wildlife Waystation sanctuary from the largest rescue operation in its history that liberated this Liger girl and many other big cats from a ramshackle facility with enclosures constructed of chicken wire and plywood near Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, called Ligertown Game Farm.

On Wednesday September 20, 1995 some of the big cats at the facility had mauled the ‘owners’ Bob Fieber and Dotti Martin and escaped their shacks of knee-deep feces, decaying food and bones. No supplies or personnel were available to dart the animals with tranquilizers and the authorities destroyed eighteen of the free-roaming animals. After Wildlife Waystation was contacted and their staff had travelled 800 miles there, twenty-four lions, one of which was only six days old, and three ligers were rescued and made the trip back to California. Namibia was discovered hiding under a pile of old carpet in a room at first thought to be empty. When the carpet was poked, in the words of Wildlife Waystation founder Martine Colette, “Namibia exploded and circled the room at ceiling height.” Probably due to spending her first few years in that place of horror, Namibia never got to trust or like humans in general.

Though indiscriminate in-breeding and deplorable conditions had left many of the animals with deformities and health problems, some of them are still alive and well today, 20 years later, including Namibia who was at the time of rescue already an adult and must now have reached at least 23 years.

The other liger at Wildlife Waystation, Ariana, was brought here in 1994 for permanent sanctuary after her former owner, a private resident in Oregon, could no longer care for her. She came together with her close friend Sandora, a Bengal tiger. Sandora has since ‘moved on’ but Ariana, although no longer a ‘kitten’ at 24 years, is still the sweet, beautiful girl she has always been. Paula Dorf Cosmetics named a lipstick after her.

 Ariana

The situation at Ligertown in 1995 was possible because of lax laws governing the possession and trading of exotic animals and the virtual absence of animal cruelty laws in the U.S. Unfortunately, since then little has been done to improve the laws and that became evident when in October 2011, 56 animals, including 18 Bengal tigers and 17 lions, were turned loose from the Muskingum County Animal Farm in Ohio by owner Terry Thompson before he shot and killed himself. At least 48 animals were consequently exterminated by the authorities.

As a result of limited federal and state management of captive exotic cats, the total population of lions and tigers in the United States is unknown but estimated to be in the tens of thousands combined. China has a large captive tiger population as well, bred and killed for the ‘traditional medicine’ industry.

At the same time, wild populations are in decline due to habitat loss, poaching and other conflicts with humans and fragmented home ranges. According to the assessment by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the “lion population is inferred to have undergone a reduction of approximately 43% over the past 21 years” and is estimated to number between 23,000 and 39,000 mature individuals. For the tiger the IUCN observes “a range decline much greater than 50% over the last three generations” and the number of estimated mature individuals lies between 2,154 and 3,159 in a severely fragmented population.

Some justify captive breeding as conservation, but even if there was an intention to release these animals into the wild, (and there usually isn’t; exploitation for profit, green-washed as education, is often the goal), there are very few legitimate re-introduction programs and there is simply no place for them to go without protection and restoration of their habitat and the creation of corridors between their fragmented ranges. That is true conservation — where effort and money should be spent.

In terms of conservation, ligers are irrelevant. The ligers brought into existence can live out their lives, well cared for, in sanctuaries like Wildlife Waystation. No new ones should be created, bred for a life of captivity, to generate profit to satisfy human greed.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the accrediting body for zoos, does not approve of ligers, said spokesperson Steve Feldman, but some AZA zoos have displayed them in the past. Another AZA spokesperson, Jane Ballentine, said that accredited zoos frown on the practice of mixing two different species. "Keeping the two species separate has always been standard procedure," she said.

We have moved beyond the Cartesian idea of non-human animals as simple, senseless and emotionless automata and beyond the biblical belief of an exploit-as-we-please dominion over other species. With ever stringent animal welfare legislation, the slow recognition of animal culture in, for instance, tool-use and communication and with the emerging concepts of non-human personhood and animal rights, the deliberate breeding of hybrids that have no place in nature can only be judged as unethical and should be abandoned.

 

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liger

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-13520472

http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/largest-cat-hybrid/

http://www.lairweb.org.nz/tiger/ligers.html

http://wildlifewaystation.org/news-and-videos/rescue-services-out-of-idaho?A=SearchResult&SearchID=2550291&ObjectID=12001286&ObjectType=35


 

October 22, 2015

By: Carla Rohde Robinson

Xin Li/Flickr

Since 1976, wild and captive chimpanzees have been protected as threatened under the US Fish & Wildlife (USFWS) Endangered Species Act (ESA). Despite this listing, threats to wild chimpanzees continued to grow over the decades that followed including: large scale deforestation and development of chimpanzee habitat, poaching for bush meat, outbreaks of disease due to human encroachment, and the capture of infant chimpanzees for the pet trade. In 1990, wild chimpanzees were reclassified as endangered under the ESA, providing them additional protections not afforded to captive chimpanzees, which retained their threatened status. USFWS Director, Dan Ashe, stated that, at the time, they “felt it was important to encourage captive breeding of chimpanzees to extend the population and reduce initiatives to capture chimpanzees from the wild. Keeping captive animals listed as threatened under the ESA also allowed for certain biomedical activities to continue, including sale, import and export, and take of captive chimpanzees.” (Ashe, 2015)


The United States is the only developed nation in the world that has continued to use great apes for research.
Thomas Kessens/Flickr

At the turn of the 20th century, one to two million chimpanzees inhabited Africa.  However, between 2000 and 2010, Africa lost 3.4 million hectares of forest, and as a result, chimp populations plummeted by as much as 90% in some areas. Current population estimates now range from 170,000-300,000 total chimps left in the wild, mostly found in disconnected habitats sprawled across 20 countries ranging from southern Senegal through Central Africa to Western Tanzania.

In an effort to further protect our closest relatives in captivity, a coalition of organizations, including the Jane Goodall Institute and the Humane Society of the United States, sent a petition in 2010 to USFWS requesting the agency to reclassify captive chimps as endangered.  USFWS took their plea seriously, and in 2013, they began to formally reevaluate their only “split listing” in the history of the ESA. On June 12, 2015, after two years of review, the agency announced that captive chimpanzees would now be federally listed as an Endangered Species, thereby guaranteeing them the same protections as their wild counterparts!

According to the USFWS, “this change will not end private ownership of chimpanzees, or interfere with routine care. However, owners wishing to sell chimpanzees across state lines, or to import or export a captive chimpanzee or any of its parts, will need to meet very specific criteria and obtain a permit from the Service. The ESA also prohibits inhumane treatment of protected species through its take prohibition. Any activities resulting in take of captive chimpanzees – those likely to result in distress, injury or harm – would require a permit. Individuals and organizations will need to demonstrate that the activity for which they are requesting a permit would enhance the species in the wild, or support scientific research that benefits wild chimpanzees.” (Ashe, 2015) Official 2015 USFWS Ruling on Captive Chimpanzees

The deadline for organizations to apply for research permits involving captive chimpanzees came and went on September 14, 2015 without a single permit application being filed. It seems many federally-backed facilities involving chimps in biomedical and behavioral research are bringing projects involving the animals to a close.  A great example of this is the Southwest National Primate Research Center (SNPRC) in Texas, who currently houses 129 chimpanzees. After the USFWS ruling, SNPRC wrapped up any ongoing studies they had involving chimps, and announced they have no further plans to apply for the permits. The National Institute of Health has also stated they are not currently funding any biomedical or behavioral research programs involving chimps, and that they plan to “phase out the funding and use of nearly 400 chimps housed at facilities across the country, mostly in New Mexico and Texas.” (Fears, June 2015) The Director of NIH, Francis S. Collins, stated that the agency would plan to keep around 50 chimps for research and place all remaining chimps in sanctuaries.

There are approximately 2,000 chimpanzees in captivity within the United States. Estimates include about 1,000 used in invasive medical research (about 400 of those are government-owned), 250 in zoos, 600 in sanctuaries and around 250 in private ownership.
Joao Maximo /Flickr

USFWS has stated they will continue to work with the NIH, the biomedical research community, and other affected organizations as they work to understand the new ruling and implement any necessary policies to ensure the protection of captive chimpanzees under the ESA.  Jane Goodall, world-renowned primatologist and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, was elated with the change and stated that “this will be enormously beneficial to individuals in inappropriate conditions. As such, it is a tremendously significant decision which will be welcomed by everyone concerned with the well-being of our closest living relatives.” (Fears 2015)

The Wildlife Waystation is home to over 40 chimpanzees and over 30 of them came to us in 1995 from a now closed biomedical research facility in upstate New York, Laboratory for Experimental Medicine and Surgery in Primates (LEMSIP). Despite what they have been through before arriving at our sanctuary, they remain vibrant, loving and sentient beings with an intelligence level that rivals a five to seven year old child. We hope further legislation will end both the medical testing on chimpanzees and private ownership.


To learn more about our chimpanzees and other rescued animals at our sanctuary, please visit www.wildlifewaystation.org. Your continued support and donations will not only help us to continue to care of our existing chimps, but will help us better prepare when future chimps are in need of a loving, permanent home.

Rod Waddington /Flickr

Sources

Ashe, Dan. US Fish & Wildlife Service. “Director’s Cut: Protecting the Chimpanzee Here and Abroad.” June 12, 2015.

Kauffman, Vanessa. US Fish & Wildlife Service. “Press Release: US Fish and Wildlife Service Finalizes Rule Listing All Captive Chimpanzees as Endangered Under the Endangered Species Act.” http://www.fws.gov/news/ShowNews.cfm?ID=E81DA137-BAF2-9619-3492A2972E9854D9. June 12, 2015.

Fears, Darryl. Washington Post. “Energy and Environment: Only in the US are chimps used in medical research. This could finally end that.” June 12, 2015.   www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/06/12/chimps-just-got-major-new-protection-from-medical-researchers/. June 12, 2015.

Grimm, David. Science Insider. “Has US Biomedical Research  on Chimpanzees come to an end?” http://news.sciencemag.org/plants-animals/2015/08/has-biomedical-research-chimpanzees-come-end-0. August 18, 2015.

I wanted to bring this drilling threat to your attention as this is close proximity to the Wildlife Waystation. Please help spread the word and ask others to submit comments to the U.S. Forest Service to stop this permit from being issued.

High Speed Rail Seeks Permits for Tunnel Study in Angeles National Forest
The California High Speed Rail Authority wants to bore holes deep beneath the Angeles National Forest and San Gabriel Mountains to determine the feasibility of constructing a high speed rail tunnel through these protected lands. If allowed to perform its tests, the rail authority will drill down 2,500 feet below the surface, puncturing holes through the aquifers on or near existing fire roads. A concrete footing or pad will be formed at each site forever marking the locations of these bored holes.

Before allowing permits to be approved for this High Speed Rail one year tunnel study, the U.S. Forest Service is asking for public comments.


Silence means compliance, so please speak up!
We need our comments to become part of the public record. The U.S. Forest Service and High Speed Rail need to know that the people of California care about their protected forest lands and that we are watching. We do not want to set a precedence that permits for large infrastructure projects like this are acceptable on our protected national forest lands. 

 

Email:
gfarra@fs.fed.us

Mail:
Attention: George Farra
Angeles National Forest
701 N Santa Anita Ave. , Arcadia, CA, 91006

Note: Comments must be submitted before October 23rd!


Tunnel Study Documents are available here:
http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=47739&exp=overview

Concerns/Impacts:

  • Residential water wells are located one mile downstream from two of the boring sites.
  • Aquifers will be punctured to study groundwater pressures and flows
  • Concrete footings will be formed at each drill site similar to a well pad and these concrete footings are permanent and will forever mark the location of these bored holes throughout the Angeles National Forest.
  • The trucks and heavy equipment used will be destructive to our protected forest lands.
  • The noise, dust, chemicals used for drilling will affect the wildlife, especially the California condor and Golden eagle.
  • The Angeles National Forest is protected from this type of infrastructure development so no permit should be issued.
  • The drilling rigs and their impacts will persist at each location for months and are allowed to continue for one year.

There exists an urban myth about the extinction of Stephens Island wren that claims that this nocturnal, flightless, insectivorous passerine from New Zealand was driven to extinction by a single lighthouse keepers cat, named Tibbles.

Of course the truth is much more complicated and the main culprits were not cats, but the humans who introduced them.

Prehistorically the wren had been widespread throughout New Zealand until the Maori settled the land. The Polynesian rat, kiore, they introduced pushed the species back to Stephens Island as a last refuge.


Photo by cliff1066™ - http://flickr.com/photos/28567825@N03/2853450803

In 1879, the European invaders that had occupied the island nation, decided on a lighthouse on Stephens Island. Land clearing started in earnest in 1891 and in early 1894, a pregnant cat brought to the island escaped.

By June one of the newborn cats started to bring carcasses of a species of small bird to the lighthouse keepers' housings. The assistant lighthouse keeper, David Lyall, who had an interest in natural history, had one of these dead birds taken to Walter Butler, a New Zealand lawyer, naturalist and ornithologist. Butler at once recognized it as distinct species and prepared a scientific description. Lyall started selling all the individuals he could gather to Henry H. Travers, a professional collector. A collection and publication battle between self-proclaimed scientists ensued.

Travers, who recognized the commercial value of the birds, sidelined Butler and offered the birds to the wealthier Walter Rothschild.


{{PD-US}} – published in the US before 1923 and public domain in the US.

Rothschild quickly prepared a description of the bird, as Traversia lyall, before Butler could publish his description of the wren as Xenicus insularis in April 1895.

By that winter Travis was no longer able to find specimen and reported that Stephens Island was now swarming with cats.

Cats introduced by humans and habitat destruction by humans, but also scientific competition had driven the Stephen Island wren to extinction within a few years of its discovery.

In California the northern elephant seals had been well known. They were relentlessly hunted for the oil extracted from their thick layer of blubber. A big male could yield as much as a 1000 liter of oil. By the end of the 19th century the elephant seals were thought extinct, but in 1892 a scientific expedition found eight individuals on the Mexican island Guadeloupe. The scientists immediately killed seven of the eight animals as specimen for musea.


Insane, most of us would say now, who would kill a beautiful, rare, living being to turn it into a museum exhibit and research subject? .

We would ascribe that unethical breed of science to the irrational, Victorian age, with only a brief revival under the Nazi-doctors.

But is that kind of science a thing of the past?

In September an American research team tracked down a male moustached kingfisher (Actenoides excelsus) found only on Guadalcanal, one of the Solomon Islands. They took the first ever photograph of it and then killed it.

Chris Filardi, director of Pacific Programs at The Museum of Natural History, defended his choice to slaughter the bird as a standard practice for field biologists.

On the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species this spectacular species is judged to be Endangered on the basis of a very small estimated population which is suspected to be declining, at least in part of its range.

Filardi however claims that the bird is not rare or in imminent danger of extinction" and hails the scientific opportunities this killing represents.


{{PD-US}} – published in the US before 1923 and public domain in the US.

In his own field journal on www.amnh.org He describes the first encounter as: Oh my god, the kingfisher. One of the most poorly known birds in the world was there, in front of me, like a creature of myth come to life.

A creature of myth slaughtered in the name of science; a form of science that should no longer exist in this day and age.

It will be interesting to hear from the Natural History Museum if their morals are as stuffy as their collection or have evolved. Science in itself justifies nothing. It should not be a killing-in-the-name-of religion to mindlessly follow. Science should serve the preservation of the natural world and be a frontrunner in ethics.

If Filardi is right that this is the standard practice for field biologists, we need a new compassionate generation of biologists and scientists.

By: Carla Rohde Robinson, Education Coordinator at Wildlife Waystation

Southern California is a highly developed area with a large human population, countless freeways, cars, and sprawl. There are over 13 million people living in just Orange and Los Angeles counties alone. Biologists believe Los Angeles is one of the last remaining mega-cities in the world, if not the only one, that a large carnivore calls home - the Mountain lion.

credit: Valerie/Flickr www.flickr.com/photos/ucumari/

Mountain lions have the greatest geographic range (distribution) of any carnivore in the Western Hemisphere and they are the largest wild cat found in North America. Widely distributed across California wherever deer are present, it is estimated there are only between 3,000 to 6,000 cats left statewide, typically found in the foothill and more mountainous regions of the state. In addition to being found in the United States, they are also native and thriving in many Central and South American countries.  Their former range was once all of what is now the continental United States, but mountain lion populations were drastically reduced during the great expansion westward beginning in the 1800’s. The main threats facing the mountain lion today are habitat loss and fragmentation, depredation (hunting) permits, wildfires, urban sprawl, highway development and cars.

credit: National Park Service

Their populations in southern California are facing more pressure now than ever, and biologists are concerned that these great predators could quickly disappear from the Southern California landscape all together if we do not act fast. Since researchers began studying the mountain lion populations in 2002 to observe how they survive in an urban metropolis environment, there have been 12 mountain lions killed while attempting to cross busy streets and freeways.

Most recent was on August 10, 2015, when P-32, known to many as a wanderer, was struck and killed by a motorist as he tried to cross Interstate 5 near Castaic, following a near 150 mile journey to find new territory and mates. Kate Kuykendall, a spokesperson for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, said P-32 was the “only known male to venture out of the Santa Monica Mountains and wander north into other habitat areas.” (Curwen 2015)

  
    

Adult mountain lions require around 200 square miles of territory, and will kill other lions found roaming in their space. In southern California, however, these big cats have limited space, mainly due to habitat fragmentation and development. The end result is that many cubs and juvenile lions never make it to adulthood. If they do survive to breeding age, then they are at high risk of being hit by a car or accidentally poisoned by second-generation rodenticides. There have also been cases of sub-adult to adult mountain lions wandering into neighborhoods and backyards looking to expand their territory, but instead being viewed as an aggressive animal and a threat to public safety threat, often resulting in the animal being euthanized.

credit: Tambako the Jaguar www.flickr.com/photos/tambako/

Roadways are not just physical barriers that can affect wildlife, but they also fragment habitat and result in highly decreased genetic diversity for the species. Mountain lion’s movements are restricted due to lack of proper habitat, so it is not uncommon for inbreeding to occur within the Southern California cats. A study published in 2014 by the University Of California Davis School Of Veterinary Medicine looked at 354 mountain lions statewide, including 97 from Southern California. It found a correlation between low genetic diversity (implicating inbreeding) and lions living in isolated areas where they were unable to freely roam and establish new territories or mates.  During their study, they observed just one lion known to cross the 101 freeway, P-12, and it was found he “significantly increased the genetic diversity of that population.” (US Davis)

Habitat Linkages and Wildlife Bridges

The first mile of the 101 Freeway opened in 1940 between Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley, making it one of the oldest freeways in California. In the decades to follow, the freeway was expanded to accommodate an increasing number of automobiles on the road, and the once continuous stretches of natural habitat traversing numerous mountain ranges soon became fragmented and divided territory.  Presently, the 101 Freeway is an expansive, 8-lane freeway that is quite dangerous for any wildlife to cross safely. Home Range Map PDF.


In 2012, biologists began to study how large carnivores like coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions in the area were travelling, mating, and interacting with other groups through the use of radio collars. The results of the on-going study revealed that the severely fragmented habitat between mountain ranges was, in fact, leading to increased inbreeding and lowered genetic diversity, isolation between groups, and increased competition for resources. Through these studies, we have learned this type of access can be provided to wildlife by working to connect existing natural habitat and create continuous habitat linkages wherever possible. Wildlife bridges, tunnels and underpasses used to connect natural areas are also a big part of this puzzle. Many of the large mammals inhabiting the state, particularly mountain lions and bobcats, need large swaths of undisturbed, continuous territories in order to survive and thrive as a species.

 

The California Department of Fish & Wildlife further explains “a functional network of connected habitats is essential to the continued existence of California's diverse species and natural communities in the face of both human land use and climate change. Habitat is [the] key to the conservation of fish and wildlife. Terrestrial species must navigate a habitat landscape that meets their needs for breeding, feeding and shelter. Natural and semi-natural components of the landscape must be large enough and connected enough to meet the needs of all species that use them. As habitat conditions change in the face of climate change, some species ranges are already shifting and wildlife must be provided greater opportunities for movement, migration, and changes in distribution.” (CDFW 2015) Regional Wildlife Linkage Map - Credit: LA County Department of Regional Planning.

Current Liberty Canyon area of the 101 Freeway

With this in mind, a number of groups and influential individuals are pushing forward to raise support and the $30 million needed for construction of a wildlife bridge across the 101 Freeway near Liberty Canyon Road in Agoura Hills in an effort to protect the genetic diversity of wildlife populations across various mountain ranges. In addition, the City of Agoura has agreed to help build a bridge over Agoura Road in an effort to further connect this important corridor. The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) owns the land to the right and left of the road.

In an interview with the Wildlife Waystation on September 24, 2015, Clark Stevens, lead architect of the bridge and Executive Officer for the Resource Conversation District of the Santa Monica Mountains (RCDSMM), the organization handling the design and engineering of the project, noted the need for a secondary bridge. He explained that because the area to the south drops off very steeply, it “would be a shame for an animal to make it across the main land bridge, only to get hit by a car on Agoura Road.”  Currently, animals that cross Agoura lose site of the creek bed quickly and are more likely to stop when they cannot see their destination, but with the addition of a secondary bridge, they will be funneled right across the road until safely in new habitat.

The planned structures will “allow animals to roam between Simi Hills to the north and the Santa Monica Mountains to the south,” and once complete, the main bridge may be the largest structure of its kind in the world – nearing roughly 200 feet in length and 165 feet in width. (Loesing, 2015) In early September 2015, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) released findings from the Project Study Report (PSR), which was meant to evaluate “feasibility and cost” of the proposed wildlife passage. This was the first step towards the structure being built. Stevens, the bridge’s architect, explained that now RCDSMM is in the second phase of a three step process – waiting for a full environmental impact study to be completed. After that is accomplished and additional funds are raised, the construction process will begin. Once ground is broken, he estimated that it could take up to five years before the project is finished. RCDSMM is also working with other organizations to create a new trail that would take outdoor enthusiasts from Malibu across the Wildlife Bridge and north into the Sierra Madre Mountain range, thereby expanding outdoor recreational opportunities in the state and allowing residents and visitors to Southern California to experience the benefits of the bridge firsthand.

Here is a time lapse of Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing!
credit: Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains

The new bridge will be covered with drought-tolerant, native plants to provide natural cover and encourage animals to use the crossing by creating a natural funnel, and it will have barriers installed to reduce noise and light from traffic to make it more appealing for wildlife. Stevens also stated that at least one third to one half of the dirt being used to build the land bridge is coming from an existing “fill dirt” dump site just to the north, which will help cut down on the overall cost since the dirt is locally sourced, as well as decrease the number of trucks present on the freeway during construction. “A lot of animals come down from the north and through that dump area. So, we are doing riparian restoration and habitat creation there so that there is a secondary zone that will help funnel animals up to the land bridge. After they come through the restored site, the animals will already be on the land bridge before they really know it,” Stevens went on to say. Other native wildlife like bobcats, coyotes, skunks, badgers, foxes, and mule deer will likely use the crossing as well to travel in between mountain ranges while searching for food, water and mates.

Opossum at one-way gate used along the 101 Freeway to keep wildlife from turning back onto the road after crossing

RCDSMM did explore other options for the project prior to completing the schematic design, including two tunnel options. However, after discussing with the National Park Service at a wildlife crossing workshop that included experts from all over the country, they determined the most effective way to get wildlife to use a new structure was by creating a land bridge. Stevens explained that the experts “studied other sites along the 101 Freeway, as well as in Temecula and San Diego. If the highway has a lot of barriers, then the animals are less likely to use it…and animals have shown they do not want to use tunnels, we think because they cannot see to the end. That’s where they pushed for the bridge including the integration of Agoura Road.” He went on to add that land bridges, tunnels, and underpasses should all be integrated into use for wildlife and to help create more habitat linkages. “The idea is that there really should be all of them. For example, Conejo grade has some underpasses, and there are some other places where we are hoping to build and connect underpasses and tunnels for use by wildlife in the future,” said Stevens.


The Conejo Grade, a 7% grade stretch of the 101 Freeway that links Thousand Oaks and cities in the Conejo Valley, was the area wildlife biologists believe a female lion, known as P-33, crossed the 101 Freeway in March 2015. As far as they know, P-33 was only the second mountain lion in the area to have successfully crossed the 8-lane freeway, and the only lion out of 35 studied to have dispersed out of the Santa Monica Mountains, something very important to the overall genetic health of mountain lions in the area. In a March 20, 2015 interview with KTLA5, Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area studying the big cats in Southern California, explained that “the GPS points show that the lions we’re tracking frequently come right up to the edges of the freeway and then turn around. After more than 10 years of seeing the same pattern in our data, it is very cool to see a lion figure out how to cross the freeway and reach other natural areas to the north.” (Soley-Cerro, 2015) It was unclear whether lion P-33 used the only underpass in the Conejo Grade area near Camarillo Springs Road to safely traverse the freeway but it is likely.

credit: LTMayers/Flickr www.flickr.com/photos/ltmayers/

The long-term goal of the RCDSMM and many other agencies involved is to find ways to enhance and link these existing tunnels and underpasses with new wildlife bridges and passages to create as many habitat linkages as possible. A major backer of the Liberty Canyon crossing is the National Wildlife Federation, who has been working hard to raise money for the project. “According to urban wildlife experts, creating a safe passage for wildlife in one of the last undeveloped areas [along] the 101 will give us a chance to ensure the future of cougars in the Santa Monica Mountains and Los Angeles area. NWF and our partners are proud to work with Californians and Americans everywhere to find ways for people to successfully coexist with and help wildlife prosper in an increasingly urbanized landscape.” (National Wildlife Federation)

For more information on the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Bridge and what you can do to help support the project, visit the National Wildlife Federation.

Caltrans and CA Department of Fish & Wildlife - Download their Watch Out for Wildlife Week PDF and learn about additional wildlife bridges and tunnels being considered in the state, as well as tips to avoid collisions with wildlife on the road.

For more information on the natural history of mountain lions, please visit the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.

The Wildlife Waystation is currently home to seven unreleasable mountain lions and other native, unreleasable wildlife! Please visit www.wildlifewaystation.org for more information on getting involved or supporting our animals.

Organizations and individuals currently working on the project include: the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC), the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), National Wildlife Federation, the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreations Area, the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, the City of Agoura Hills, CA State Senator Fran Pavley, CA State Assembly member Richard Bloom, US Congressman Ted Lieu, LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, and Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks.


credit: Dan Hutcheson/Flickr www.flickr.com/photos/wildphotons/

Sources

Belmond, Sylvie. “Wildlife Crossing Proves to be Complicated Puzzle.” The Acorn. March 13, 2015.

Bertholdo, Stephanie. “New Funding Allows Construction to Begin on Wildlife Corridor.” The Acorn. December 4, 2014.

Boyce, Walter; Buchalski, Michael; Ernest, Holly; Morrison, Scott; Vickers, T. “Fractured Genetic Connectivity Threatens a Southern California Puma Population.” DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107985. October 8, 2014.

California Department of Fish & Wildlife. “Habitat Connectivity Planning for Fish and Wildlife.” www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Planning/Connectivity. 2015.

Curwen, Thomas; Rocha, Veronica. “The ‘Sad But Not Surprising Death’ of a Wandering Puma Known as P-32.” LA Times. www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-puma-killed-freeway-20150813-story.html. August 13, 2015.

Gish, Judy. “The Call of the Wild: Caltrans Studies Help to Preserve Animal Habitat.” Inside Seven - Caltrans District 7 Monthly Newsletter. October 2010.

Groves, Martha. “Caltrans Proposes Wildlife Overpass On 101 Freeway.” LA Times. www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-caltrans-proposes-wildlife-overpass-on-101-freeway-20150902-story.html .   September 2, 2015.

Kim, Jed. “LA Gets Its First Look at Proposed Bridge for Mountain Lions, wildlife.” Southern California Public Radio. www.scpr.org/news/2015/09/03/54163/first-look-at-a-proposed-wildlife-bridge-released/. September 3, 2015.

LA County Department of Regional Planning. “Significant Ecological Areas: Regional Habitat Linkages and Wildlife Corridors.” http://planning.lacounty.gov/sea/regional_habitat_linkages_and_wildlife_corridors/.

Loesing, John. “Agency Unveils Plans for Almost $60-million Wildlife Bridge in Agoura.” The Acorn. September 10, 2015.

National Wildlife Federation. “Wildlife Crossing: Liberty Canyon Wildlife Corridor Key to Mountain Lion Survival.” www.nwf.org/Save-LA-Cougars/Wildlife-Crossing.aspx.

Santa Monica Mountains Fund. “Highway Wildlife Crossings.” www.samofund.org/portfolio/highway-wildlife-crossings/

Soane, Kylie. “Roads, Wildlife and A Finished Thesis.” https://ksoanesresearch.wordpress.com/category/roads-and-wildlife. April 21, 2015.

Soane, Kylie. “Teaching Wildlife Road-Crossing Tricks.” https://ksoanesresearch.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/teaching-wildlife-road-crossing-tricks. July 4, 2013.

Soley-Cerro, Ashley. “Mountain Lion Makes Rare, Successful Crossing of 101 Freeway.” KTLA5. http://ktla.com/2015/03/20/mountain-lion-makes-unusual-successful-crossing-of-101-freeway. March 20, 2015.

UC Davis. “A Highway Runs Through It: Mountain Lions in Southern California Face Genetic Decay.” http://news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=11005. October 8, 2014.

The Wildlife Waystation would like to give a Big Thanks to Odyssey Charter School in Altadena, California for raising over $700 for our animals at their Charity Marketplace” fundraiser earlier this spring. This is the second year in a row they have chosen us as their recipient and we could not thank them enough! Special thanks go to Ms. Denise Martinez and her kindergarten class of 25 students.  They made over 700 popsicles to sell at their event!!

We appreciate all your hard work and ongoing dedication to our animals!  You are all truly inspiring and are making a difference for the animals here at the Waystation!

If you or your school is interested in donating to the Wildlife Waystation or if you are interested in making enrichment items for our primates or big cats, please explore our wish list at http://wildlifewaystation.org/wws-wish-list.

Learn more about the Odyssey Charter School Annual Charity Marketplace:

As an Odyssey Charter School trademark tradition, Charity Marketplace has become one element of teaching students social responsibility under our ‘classroom without walls’ philosophy. The event was started in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, when students decided to find a way to assist local charities. Since then, students are given the opportunity to create their own businesses or work for another student-run business, by selling handcrafted items, baked goods, or by providing entertainment during the school-wide Charity Marketplace. Throughout this process, students learn about inventory records, supplying orders, and budgets. Using a given budget, each business must operate under its limits and must repay any debt during the project. After repaying all debts, the outstanding profits are then donated to their charity of choice.  For additional information about this program or Odyssey Charter School, visit www.odysseycharterschool.org.


Photo credit to: Darian Louis Cohen/Flickr   Link to: www.flickr.com/photos/59660577@N05/

Photo credits:

  • All other photos credited to:   Odyssey Charter School

It began in early 2013 --  a flurry of outrage when residents living just on the edge Joshua Tree National Park found traps illegally placed on their property, some within just one mile of the park.  Concern over the Joshua tree reports grew and eventually prompted the California Legislature to pass AB1213, the Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 -- essentially tasking California Fish and Game Commission with establishing buffer zones around state and national parks, as well as other wildlife areas where bobcat trapping would be prohibited.  In a recent August 5th LA Times article by reporter Louis Sahagan, “California bans trapping of bobcats amid protests over cruelty,”  the author of the bobcat act, Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D), was quoted to say that the vote “demonstrated a growing awareness about how we treat native wildlife in California….There’s a big difference, for example, between hunting a game animal and taking home to eat it, and trapping an animal for commercial purposes and doing it in a way that causes a long painful death.”  Opponents of its passage pointed to the lack of sufficient impact and population studies, which the state was tasked with doing after the act was passed. The most current survey of bobcat populations in the state was completed in 1979, and to date, the state has yet to conduct the newly required survey.  


Terrified and waiting to be killed. So sad.

On Wednesday, August 5, 2015 the California Fish and Game Commission (CFGC) voted 3 to 2 to uphold and implement a statewide ban on all commercial bobcat trapping, amidst a statewide “Ban the Trap,” campaign and mounting public pressure. Brendan Cummings, senior counsel for the Center of Biological Diversity, a national organization involved in the passage of this legislation, stated in the same LA Times article that “today, California stepped into the 21st century of wildlife management…We place a higher value on native wildlife alive, rather than as dead commodities.”

The vote took place under heavy resistance from the California Trappers Association and some within the California Department of Fish and Wildlife who say that there is not enough information on the effect trapping and hunting has on wild bobcat populations in the state, and that this decision destroys the trapping industry in the state without cause.  Hector Barajas, spokesperson for the California Trappers Association (CTA), stated that the August 5th ruling will destroy an already dying industry in California and part of the state’s heritage. In the same LA Times article, Mercer Lawing, director of the CTA, added that people will now have “bobcats running through their backyards, eating their dogs and kittens.”


Bobcat in the wild. Photo courtesy of USFWS

Commissioners did say they would be willing to consider lifting trapping restrictions in some areas once studies are completed and there is a more accurate picture of the status of wild bobcats. According to the LA Times, as of August 5, 2015, there have been “more than 25,000 registered comments in support of the statewide ban, and a dozen letters in favor of trapping zones.” California wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists are rejoicing at the decision and touting it as “good news for bobcats, but bad news for rodents.”

For more information on the natural history of bobcats, please visit the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles at www.nhm.org/site/explore-exhibits/permanent-exhibits/north-american-mammals/bobcat.

The Wildlife Waystation is home to four unreleasable bobcats and other native, unreleasable wildlife! Please visit www.wildlifewaystation.org for more information on getting involved or supporting our animals.


"Shilo" one of the bobcats at the Wildlife Waystation.

Related articles and sources of information, as well as sources for my article

  • California Fish and Game Commission http://www.fgc.ca.gov/regulations/2015/index.aspx#478  and the Proposed regulatory language is at http://www.fgc.ca.gov/regulations/2015/478regs.pdf
  • AB-1213 Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140AB1213 
  • “California Fish and Game Commission Prohibits Bobcat Trapping,” August 5, 2015 http://www.humanesociety.org/news/news_briefs/2015/08/ca-bobcat-trapping-080515.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/
  • Project Bobcat http://projectbobcat.org/ 
  • Sahagan, Louis, “California bans trapping of bobcats amid protests over cruelty,” LA Times, Aug.5, 2015, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-california-bans-trapping-of-bobcats-amid-protests-over-cruelty-20150805-story.html
  • Clarke, Chris, KCET, “California Bans Bobcat Trapping in 3-2 Vote,”  August 5, 2015 http://www.kcet.org/news/redefine/rewild/hunting/california-bans-bobcat-trapping-in-3-2-vote.html
  • Koseff, Alexei, Sacramento Bee, “Commission approves statewide bobcat trapping ban,” August 5, 2015, http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article30187980.html
  • Wilson, Ethan, “Bobcat trapping has sadly come to Joshua Tree,”  February 2013,  http://www.joshuatreeoasis.com/blog/park-news/bobcat-trapping-joshua-tree/ 
  • Sahagan, Louis, LA Times, “Locals believe bobcat trappers are crossing the line in Joshua Tree,” February 11, 2013, http://articles.latimes.com/2013/feb/11/local/la-me-bobcats-20130211


The Wildlife Waystation would like to give a big thanks to 122nd Street Elementary School, City Year and Alexa Turton for welcoming us into your school for a wildlife education program and annual Career Day! In April, we visited the City Year after-school program and students learned about the Waystation, native Southern California wildlife and met our opossum, a Great-Horned Owl and an African Pygmy Hedgehog. Last week, we returned to 122nd Street E.S. for their Annual Career Day and were very impressed with the school's dedication to promoting positive role models for the kids. Keep up the great work City Year and 122nd Street Elementary School!! You are truly inspiring, and are making quite an impact in the lives of the students at your school and throughout the community!

 

If you are interested in scheduling an educational program with the Wildlife Waystation, please visit us at http://wildlifewaystation.org/outreach-and-off-ranch-events or email info@wildlifewaystation to start planning today!  If you would like to donate to the Waystation or make enrichment items for our Great Apes and other primates, please check out our wishlist at wildlifewaystation.worldsecuresystems.com/wws-wish-list .

 

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City Year info: www.cityyear.org/losangeles  

City Year partners with school districts to place corps members in the schools that need it the most. They provide students with one-on-one support to overcome challenges they face both in and out of school and, in addition to working with individual students who are at-risk of dropping out, City Year also provides support to help transform the whole school – including leading school-wide events and activities, after school programming, and in class support for teachers.



Thank You Pretty Pink Ponies!

The Wildlife Waystation would like to give a big thanks to Julie Peek & the Pretty Pink Ponies for organizing a big April enrichment wrapping party to benefit the Wildlife Waystation and our 42 rescued chimpanzees and other primates!

Huge thank you to MaryAnne Loverme and the LA County Store in SilverLake for hosting us in the store on Easter sunday, and to Jennifer Topolski in NYC for helping to arrange it all!

We really loved wrapping presents for the chimps, almost as much as the chimps LOVED opening them!

If you are interested in making or donating enrichment items for our Great Apes and other primates, please check out our Amazon wishlist or website!  wildlifewaystation.worldsecuresystems.com/wws-wish-list