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Highway 17 Laurel Curve Wildlife Connectivity Study (2013-present).

In September 2013, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County and Pathways for Wildlife joined as project partners with Caltrans District 5, the UC Santa Cruz Puma Project, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife to identify the best locations for wildlife crossing structures on Highway 17.

Pathways for Wildlife was hired to conduct the wildlife connectivity analysis and to develop a connectivity design with the project partners. Field camera, roadkill data, and mountain lion radio collar data (contributed by the UCSC Puma Project) were overlaid with GIS wildlife connectivity modeling to determine the optimum locations to install wildlife crossing structures for animals to travel underneath Highway 17 (Figure 1).

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Caltrans District 5 has integrated the connectivity design into a project design, and the wildlife crossing was completed in Fall of 2023, with directional fencing to guide animals to the crossing structure.

A recent scientific publication has documented that the Santa Cruz mountain lion population has a low effective genetic population size and is at risk of genetic isolation (Gustafson et al. 2018). It is more critical than ever to create a safe passage under Highway 17 for facilitating mountain lion movement between sub-populations. Pathways for Wildlife recorded four mountain lions hit during a five-year study period along the stretch of the highway where the wildlife crossing has been recently built. Our cameras have also been recording consistent mountain lion movement on either side of Laurel Curve at Highway 17 for the past six years. This wildlife crossing is a much-needed solution for generations of mountain lions and other species of wildlife that are being hit on Highway 17.

Pathways for Wildlife is currently monitoring the wildlife crossing and conducting a three-year wildlife connectivity study to determine the effectiveness of the wildlife crossing by recording the species utilizing the crossing to cross under the highway. The study also involves conducting routine roadkill surveys to determine if there is a decrease in wildlife collisions by comparing the baseline roadkill data they collected with the previous three years.


Within the first hour of setting up cameras with Caltrans, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County and the Wildlife Conservation Network, a bobcat was recorded traveling through the wildlife crossing, see video and news articles below.

Multiple individuals of deer are also consistently traveling through the wildlife crossing each month.

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