#38: Beth Pratt – The Age of Wildlife Crossings

#38: Beth Pratt – P-22 And The Age of Wildlife Crossings Nature's Archive


Highways, roadways, and railways isolate animals, prevent them from reaching needed food and water, cause genetic isolation, and make populations vulnerable to natural disasters. And as you’ll hear today, the impacts go much deeper, and sometimes in surprising directions. 

But wildlife crossings go a long way towards mitigating this damage.

Today, my guest Beth Pratt of the National Wildlife Federation and Save LA Cougars tells the astonishing story of how a Los Angeles mountain lion named P-22 triggered a cascade of support leading to one of the most ambitious wildlife crossings ever conceived. This crossing, called the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing at Liberty Canyon, is about to break ground over the 10 lane US-101 highway.

Beth tells us about how P-22, with support from amazing people like Beth, helped the second largest city in the United States wake up to the fact that we need to find a way to coexist with nature. And we also discuss some of the nuts and bolts of wildlife crossing design. For example, she discusses the pros and cons of overpass crossings vs tunnels and culverts, and how design can be used to influence animals to use the crossings. And of course, the specific wildlife protection goals influence the design, too.

Beth also describes many surprising ways that wildlife crossings help improve ecosystems and the food web. Even plants need connectivity, and some bird species are negatively impacted by highways – and these crossings aim to help.

Beth Pratt with P-22 cut-out and California Governor Gavin Newsom

A bit more about Beth Pratt. Beth has over 25 years experience in environmental leadership, and is currently the Executive Director of the California Region for the National Wildlife Federation. Beth previously served as Vice President and CFO at the Yosemite Conservancy, and also serves on the board of Outdoor Afro.

If that wasn’t enough, Beth authored the book “When Mountain Lions are Neighbors”, which was highly influential in my progression as a nature advocate. Beth and her work have frequently been featured in the media, including a recent piece in the LA Times by Louis Sahagún (who coined the term “The Age of Wildlife Crossings” in this article).

You can find Beth online at bethpratt.com, on Twitter @bethpratt, and on Facebook @bethpratt1. And of course, you can also find P-22, the talented mountain lion that he is, on Twitter @p22ofhollywood and Facebook @p22mountainlionofhollywood.

Artist Rendition of the Crossing. Photo courtesy Living Habitats and National Wildlife Federation
P-22 Close-Up, Photo courtesy National Park Service. Full album here.

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Related Episodes and Content

#20 with Dr. Yiwei Wang – we discuss the Puma Project mentioned today

#35 with Ben Goldfarb – Ben is working on a few Roadside Ecology book

#37 with Dr. Stuart Weiss – we discuss the same US-101 highway impact, albeit 400 miles north

Dr. Merav Vonshak (see Episode #7 and #31) has been documenting and raising awareness about a massive ongoing roadkill of several newt species in an area in need of a proper wildlife crossing.

People, Organizations, Websites

Annenberg Foundation

The Badger and Coyote Video – crossing a highway together through a culvert


Fraser Shilling – road ecology expert at UC-Davis

Griffith Park – where P-22 has taken up residence

Humanity Communications Collective

Jeff Sikich – biologist

National Park Service Santa Monica Recreation Area

National Wildlife Federation

Pathways for Wildlife and Tonya Diamond

Rob Hirsch – photographer

Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy


Travis Longcore – UCLA professor studying design and light impacts to animals

Yosemite Conservancy

ARC – Animal Road Crossings

Cougar: Ecology and Conservation by Maurice Hornocker, Sharon Negri – hard science on cougars

Heart of a Lion: A Lone Cat’s Walk Across America by William Stolzenburg

International Conference on Ecology and Transportation – ICOET

Puma Profiles – recommended by Beth

Western Transportation Institute (Montana State University)

When Mountain Lions are Neighbors, book by Beth Pratt

Note: links to books are affiliate links

Music Credits

Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed

Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed

Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/


Transcripts are automatically created and are 95%+ accurate. Apologies for any errors.

Beth Pratt

[00:00:00] Michael: Beth, thank you for joining me today.

[00:00:02] Beth Pratt: It is a pleasure to be here. I’m always happy to talk with you, Michael, about a wildlife cougars or whatever we want, whatever you want to discuss.

[00:00:10] Michael: Yeah. And I think it will be a fun discussion today before we get into the core of the discussion. Can you just tell me a little bit about yourself, , where are you at? What do you do and how did you get interested in nature?

[00:00:21] Beth Pratt: Boy. Yeah. How do we get interested in nature? Could probably take up the whole talk with all my childhood stories, but where I’m coming to you from, I live outside Yosemite national park in the foothills, and I’ve worked in Yosemite for almost a decade, worked in Yellowstone. So most of my background has been working in these sort of traditional remote wilderness, national parks, but What I do now is mostly urban wildlife focused in LA and the most improbable places to do Mount lion conservation.

[00:00:54] But yeah, I have a dream job. I am the regional executive director for the national wildlife Federation for California.

[00:01:01] It’s a national group. You might remember ranger Rick growing up. I read it growing up. Ranger. Rick is still a magazine, still a thing, but we do conservation work all over the U S I only oversee the California work, which is the greatest state to oversee conservation work in, of course we do wonderful stuff for wildlife.

[00:01:17] Not perfect, but we really do lead the way I think. And I get to oversee all the work in California, but , I know we’re going to talk about the wildlife crossing and that’s really kept me busy. But it’s just been such an amazing project to work on to your question, how I get interested in nature, , I don’t know if it’s just embedded in my DNA.

[00:01:36] I think part of it is my parents were I wouldn’t call them environmental us, but they loved wildlife. They loved animals. We always had, a full array of pats. You’re going to hear one of my five dogs barking. I’m sure at some point in this, in the background or , my cat’s gonna walk across the screen.

[00:01:53] But we just always had a love of wildlife and the outdoors I grew up in Massachusetts and my earliest memories is walking on Cape Cod and seeing horseshoe crabs. That was one big animal for me that really got me interested. We go whale watching or actually went to a dead whale, would wash up on the beach.

[00:02:11] My dad always loved to go see those which actually was cool, although it was a little morbid, but to be able to see a whale, up close like that, you usually don’t get to even one that you know, had passed on. Just always was surrounded by nature and felt always more comfortable in it.

[00:02:26] I didn’t have a lot of nature. In some respects. I had great woods. I grew up in the suburb of Boston called garden city. It was a traditional suburb, but we had this woods, but at that time, the wildlife was not abundant.

[00:02:39] It was a period where it had been banished, right? So the best I could do was frogs and birds and the occasional turtle. And a squirrel. Now, if you go back, what I love is there’s Bobcats and coyotes and deer. And, everything that got banished at the time has returned.

[00:02:58] And I will add , the animal that , I think was really the gateway animal for me was frogs. I think frogs are the gateway animal for many people. I mean, they are almost everybody sees them. They’re non-threatening and they’re adorable. Right. People love watching their antics. So it’s a great sort of first animal to introduce you to the wonder the wild world. And they’re amazing.

[00:03:19] But for me, seeing anything bigger than a squirrel just wasn’t gonna happen. So frogs are sort of that animal that I had access to that was everywhere. And that I think really, started me off as, not just as lover of nature, but as a scientist

[00:03:34] Michael: as you alluded to, we’re going to talk a little bit about wildlife crossings and you also mentioned that somehow your job led you to LA. And some urban wildlife tell me a bit about how that happened? Cause I w I mean, just foreshadowing a bit, we’re going to talk about a mountain lion.

[00:03:50] How did come onto your radar?

[00:03:53] Beth Pratt: Yeah. Yeah. It’s just one of those, like what happened? I mean, if you had told me , a decade ago, I would have shifted from, doing conservation or environmental work in these national parks that I grew up revering to LA I would have laughed at you. What there’s wildlife in LA and LA is small and concrete.

[00:04:12] There’s you know, why would you even do conservation there? And. It’s just been, such an incredibly rich transformation for me to have to change my thinking. I’m originally from Massachusetts, but I call myself Bostonian by birth. And California is my adopted state.

[00:04:27] I love California. I am passionate about California. So I’ve been here 32 years. Like any good Northern California you are snobbish about LA I probably before P-22 had been down there, not even, a half a dozen times. So I had started in 2011, writing a book about California wildlife as part of my job.

[00:04:48] And you, there’s one of the wildlife in my area, one of my dogs but I had started writing this book about California wildlife, and it was meant more as sort of a survey of California wildlife. And it turned into the P 22 show. He became the cover. But as part of that, I was researching in this story in the LA times, popped up in 2012, right after they had discovered he was in the park.

[00:05:10] He wasn’t even a celebrity that much sore, more a local fascination at the time, the headline didn’t even name him.

[00:05:17] It just said Mountain Lion makes a home in Griffith park. And I was like, what? I mean, I didn’t believe it. Fake news was not a term at the time, but if it had been, I would’ve said that’s fake news, but I got on the phone and was able to talk to Jeff Sikich, the incredible biologist who’s since become a good friend who was studying and he offered to give me a tour.

[00:05:38] So I drove down to LA I didn’t even know Griffith park, what it was. I mean that you had this incredible wilderness park, not on the outskirts of LA, but in the middle of it was just such so eyeopening and that it had enough habitat for mountain lion. I mean, I’ll challenge any other city in the country, to even San Francisco doesn’t have enough habitat to hold a mountain lion full-time

[00:06:01] Michael: And just to jump in it’s I think even more surprising when you think about LA is the city that decided to pave over their river.

[00:06:09] Beth Pratt: Exactly. I mean, this is why, , I feel like part of my job is to dispel notions about LA that some of the myths are true, but I have to say, , they have since started redeeming themselves after paving over their river. I really think they are paving the way for this new sort of coexistence ethic in a way that I don’t think any other city has.

[00:06:32] For me, it’s I’m now like Ellie’s biggest champion, which again, 10 years ago, you could have knocked me over the stick. If, thinking that I might’ve been that. But, yeah, and that was part of my personal, I had to give up my personal biases and, that’s what I love about science.

[00:06:46] When you have data that, stands against your beliefs, you got to give up those beliefs. So that day, when Jeff was giving me a tour, we’re in Griffith park and I’m just incredible. I’m looking around what I mean, oh my God, there’s pony rides and people are playing golf and there’s the Hollywood sign and there’s the observatory, at first I really, was going with those biases he shouldn’t be here because I came up in the school of conservation 30 years ago, where you put the wildlife in places like disseminate and you put the people in places like LA and never the two should meet and we’ve done our job, what really hit me that day is both scientifically and socially.

[00:07:22] That just doesn’t hold up anymore. And after Jeff was telling me about the plight of P 22 and the plight of all his Mont line relatives in the Santa Monica mountains, the Santa Monica mountains runs right into Griffith park. It’s the Terminus. I just had one of those, really moments of having to challenge myself and it’s like, well, wait a minute.

[00:07:41] He should be here in this park. Who am I to say? He shouldn’t and why are we giving up our human spaces as irredeemable for wildlife? And then obviously the science really is showing we can’t, we have to not, might not be perfect nature, like a Yosemite, but we need to start making way for wildlife in places like LA or our backyards, or they’re not going to have a future.

[00:08:07] At the end of that tour, that Jeff Sikich gave me. I was just so blown away, he told me about not just the plight of P 22 and how he was trapped by, freeways, but the entire population of these mountain lines in the Santa Monica mountains and how they were at risk of extinction because of the genetic isolation these freeways brings.

[00:08:27] So I just said, Jeff, How can I help with my organization, the national wildlife Federation? And he turned to me like almost offhandedly well, you know, there’s this little wildlife crossing we’re trying to get built. And I just remember thinking how hard can it be? Right. Not knowing it would take a decade of my life and be an $87 million project.

[00:08:45] But I remember thinking quite solidly, like when he told me they were at risk of extinction, I just remember thinking, not on my watch, this is a problem we can solve, , so let’s solve it. I don’t want these mountain lines to go extinct , on my watch.

[00:08:59] And here we are.

[00:09:00] Michael: So there’s a couple different things I want to dig into a little bit one, the stereotypical view, I think a lot of people have of mountain lions in urban areas is of the hiker or the mountain biker, or the little kid getting attacked, which is exceedingly rare and P 22 has really turned into a celebrity in LA.

[00:09:19] So I’m wondering how did that transformation happen? Going against the grain of what you often see among the general public and media.

[00:09:28] Beth Pratt: . I think it gets back to, why I said, I have the dream job in California. There’s a base value system in California. Not everybody shares it, but the majority do that. Wildlife should be here despite the risks and the risks are so low. I mean, I’ll get into that in a minute, but California values its wildlife so much that not lions are especially protected species.

[00:09:51] We’re the only state in the country where they can’t be hunted for sport. And that was by the voters. One 17 and 1990 it was a ballot measure that people said, you know what? We value these animals as part of our wild heritage and we want them here.

[00:10:05] So I think there’s just a value system in California that, looks at wildlife perhaps differently in other areas. So in some respects, LA was pre disposed to co-exist with in the middle of the city. I also think it’s that people love of, having this connection, you look at these sightings of peach when they do.

[00:10:24] I mean, it just made headlines recently. He performed what I consider an Olympic balanced being FIDI he would win the Olympic gymnastics competition. He got caught on video leaping onto this like six inch, sort of fence sledge nail, the perfect landing people share these with me, celebrating, not fear, not, they’re not fearful, he’s in their backyard.

[00:10:44] It’s like having, the Brad Pitt of the Cougar world. It’s if Brad Pitt showed up in your neighborhood, you would post and be like, yay. And that’s what I love is people for the most part celebrate , it’s sort of a badge of honor if he shows up in your backyard outside of Griffith park.

[00:10:59] I think it is that, people value these wild connections and that most people do put the risk in perspective. And that’s what I ask people to do. I can’t say will never attack anybody. I mean, knock on wood. He’s a wild animal. Wild animals are wild. They are unpredictable. I mean, people are right.

[00:11:16] You can’t walk down a city street and don’t know if you’ll get mugged or not. My dogs, I can’t say they’ll never bite anybody, even though they’re the most, Lovebug cuddlers on the planet. So I think, with all these things, it’s just about putting the risk in perspective. We still walk down city streets, even though there’s a potential to get mugged, even though it’s pretty low.

[00:11:33] And it’s the same with mountain lions Mont lines in the last hundred years in California, I think there’s about 20 recorded attacks. Six of those have been fatal and listen, those are not just statistics. Those are people that have been killed. So we don’t want to diminish it. We never want it to happen.

[00:11:51] . But again, we take risks every day and the risk of Mt. Lions are so low compared to things we do driving. I’m going to die on the one-on-one in California. We have a 3000 to 4,000 deaths every year on our freeways. So that’s really, if you are worried about well-being, it’s not mountain lions, you should be worried about it’s our cars, again, 40 million people in California, a hundred years, 20 attacks that is just, you’re going to be struck by lightning more than you going to get mountain lion.

[00:12:23] So that’s all I ask people to not fear, respect. They are wild animals. The risk is not zero. I mean, but it’s close to zero and just try to put the risk in perspective and also do things to help the wildlife, like to be successful. But I think if P 22 shows any thing it’s that these animals were not on their menu, you know, not.

[00:12:43] Waiting in the woods at every moment, ready to leap out at us. In fact, one of my favorite photo series there’s of course cameras all around Griffith park, capturing P 22 now is of it’s five or six in the morning and P 22, for some reason sitting right near one of the cameras. So it’s kinda blasting photos at them.

[00:13:01] It’s still dark. And then you see a move about like 10 feet. It’s still sort of see, I think his tail or something. And all of a sudden this jogger goes by the jogger, had no idea. There was a mountain lion there. And I think most of us we’ve lived with Mont lions, all our lives. We just didn’t know it.

[00:13:16] We just now have these technologies to show us they’re in our backyards. But they’ve always been here. So just, try to respect them, try to celebrate these sightings, do safe things, don’t fear. The risk is so.

[00:13:30] Michael: yeah.

[00:13:30] over here in the bay area, there’s a project I think out of UC Santa Cruz called the Puma project. And and they’ve colored some mountain lions. You can see where they go occasionally in urban areas and Yeah.

[00:13:41] you think of all the times that they would have had a chance to be aggressive, that they just they don’t take.

[00:13:45] And that demonstrates your point. And I in fact, had a very close interaction with a mountain lion on a hike one time where I think we scared each other is what happened. And the mountain lion, I think, was just playing, like chasing something in the steep hillside grassland and very steep.

[00:14:01] So I, my visibility was poor. Its visibility was poor and it just jumped down on the trail Right

[00:14:07] in front of me, like 10 feet in front of me. And it looked at me, I looked at it and then it was over the edge of the hillside and down and off. And that kinda crept up to the edge and peeked over like, is this thing, still there.

[00:14:19] And it was already a hundred meters away. It turned around, looked at me and and then turned back and went on its way. Yeah. It’s

[00:14:26] Beth Pratt: you demonstrate it. They are more afraid of us. In fact, that I think was at Santa Cruz, who did the study, like they played human voices and they just fled. Right. And I, in, in your other, you illustrate another point is that. People often mistake, mountain lion behavior, like something that a stocking lot lions are.

[00:14:45] Listen, if you’re being stocked by Mt. Line, you’re not going to know it. They are stealth predators. Okay. So if they’re watching you and they see you, they’re probably trying to figure out if you’re like going to hurt them and trying to like assess the situation and if they are following you it’s probably because they want to keep you insight to make sure you’re not going to harm them.

[00:15:03] So if people learn a little bit more about mountain lion behavior, I think some of that fear can go away and also we’ll give you the tools. If you do have an encounter, how do make sure it ends successfully? I think the other example that jogger where the mother mountain lion member, that video that went viral, where the mother Mount lion starts, bluff charging him.

[00:15:23] Again, I was really trying to dispel the headlines. Like they were all saying, escapes. That guy was in no danger that Mont line could have taken him out in two seconds. She was doing everything she could to avoid an encounter. She was telling him to go away. And I have to give him some credit, except for the initial mistake he made, which was approaching the kittens, which of course any mother is going to try to protect.

[00:15:47] He did pretty good after that, trying to keep her inside, not running. And she was like, it’s almost like she had the human playbook, what to do to avoid, having to resort to leave the measures right. Much like we do. She was trying to tell him to go away. So I think that, yeah, keeping in mind, like you said they really are trying to avoid us and doing everything they can to avoid, a conflicting encounter.

[00:16:08] But yeah, Lauren, to me, I call it reading the wildlife. Whether if you can learn more because if you aren’t a biologist, of course, a , 130 pound cat snarling at you is probably scary. But I have to say if if a mountain lion is stalling at you, you’re probably not in danger. They’re probably telling you, please go away.

[00:16:25] Michael: Right. They aren’t using their stealth ability at that point, which is what they would use if they were hunting.

[00:16:31] Beth Pratt: Exactly. Yep.

[00:16:32] Michael: So you mentioned your book when mountain lions, our neighbors at that book was recommended to me a few years ago and I bought it and read it and really enjoyed it.

[00:16:39] And the context was I was looking to make a career change and had taken a field ecology class. And I asked my ecology professor, who can I volunteer with? What organizations are around? How can I start learning? And she recommended that book. And so that was really instrumental in my progression.

[00:16:58] I probably wouldn’t be doing this podcast right now if it weren’t for your book, that was really a trigger point, I think for me. So I think.

[00:17:04] Beth Pratt: Wow. Michael that’s. I mean, thank you. I mean, I think there’s no greater compliment to an author than to, instill some sort of change, whether it be personal or global. And I’m so excited you did make that change. I mean, just in our talks already, I can tell how passionate you are about, wildlife and conservation.

[00:17:21] I’m excited for you.

[00:17:23] Michael: Yeah.

[00:17:23] I can’t wait to start to actually execute on some of the plans I

[00:17:27] Beth Pratt: Yeah.

[00:17:27] Michael: so a circling back then to the crossing, it’s generally known as Liberty canyon crossing. Can

[00:17:35] Beth Pratt: Wallace. It’s now the Wallis Annenberg wildlife crossing. And we can’t think yes, that is what we called it for years. Obviously it’s in Liberty canyon, but I can’t think Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg foundation enough there are 25 million donation and prior donations they had got us started with a million.

[00:17:54] And it’s been just supportive since the beginning of this crazy idea, which so in honor of that it is now the Wallis Annenberg, wildlife crossing.

[00:18:04] Michael: That’s great. They’ve done a lot for conservation efforts. I know they have a track record of gifts and I think explore.org. There’s a few things I think that

[00:18:13] Beth Pratt: Yes, that’s theirs. Yep. Yeah, no, I can’t say enough. Good things. They’ve just I walk into their office with this crazy idea, which at the time we didn’t even know we had no plan, no blueprints, nothing. It was like, we need to do this. And Wallace and Cindy canard, the executive director just re yup.

[00:18:29] You’re right. I mean, they just saw the vision early on for what this could be. We wouldn’t be here without them.

[00:18:34] Michael: So let’s talk about it. Just maybe 10,000 foot view where it’s located. How big is it?

[00:18:40] Beth Pratt: Yeah . It’s a great time to be talking about it because wow. I mean, we’re just, we’re at the finish line. I’m a bit dizzy. I mean, I’m not going to totally relax till, governor Newsome puts that shovel in the ground at the groundbreaking, but I just, I can’t believe where we’re at this point.

[00:18:55] We’re about to break ground. We’re almost fully funded, not total, but we have enough to break ground this thing’s going out to bid shortly. Wow. These Mont lines are gonna have a future but yeah the project itself to take a step back.

[00:19:08] The project is located in on the 1 0 1 freeway in a place called Agoura Hills. You might not recognize that name, but of course now it’s going to be on the map globally, but you probably recognize like Calabasas where the Kardashians live and stuff, but it’s in the Santa Monica mountains about 30 miles west of LA.

[00:19:25] And it’s a very urbanized area. LA is the second largest city in the country. But if you look at the, what the, I think the census calls the LA metropolitan area that is the most densely populated area in the country, but they also have a ton of open space. I mean, a lot more than you expect. You can get some Yosemite, sort of wilderness hikes in the Santa Monica mountains.

[00:19:48] So they did a really good job. The Santa Monica mountains Conservancy the, the national park service with the Santa Monica mountains, national recreation area of preserving open space within that area. So there’s a lot of open space to support wildlife populations. The problem is it’s not connected because of these freeways and roads and human development as well.

[00:20:09] The national park service started doing this mountain lion study actually 20 years ago now. And I can stop saying almost 20 years ago, 2012 2002 is when they started in an hour in 2022. They had been studying wildlife and other entities have been studying wildlife before that and starting to see some of these signs, but it was really starting to collar these Mountain Lions , which are the most territory needy that started raising the alarm bell, which is okay, something’s going on here, genetically, because these cats can’t get out.

[00:20:37] So the one-on-one sort of, runs. The Santa Monica mountains are . Cells of the one-on-one. And it literally cuts off the Santa Monica mountains from the rest of the world, because blow it is the Pacific ocean and pretty much rings it. So for the first time in its evolutionary history, Santa Monica mountain had been isolated.

[00:20:56] Once that one-on-one got put up and it’s a mega freeway, like this is not a two lane road. This is one of the busiest freeways in the world. 10 lanes of pavement, 300 to 400,000 cars a day, go by Liberty canyon. So it is an impenetrable barrier. I have stood at that freeway at 2:00 AM and would not cross there’s still so much traffic.

[00:21:16] So , in this pinch point at Liberty, Kenyon is actually the last 1600 feet. You could even put a wildlife crossing in the entire region because one of the biggest things you have to put in a crossing to make it successful is protected space on both sides of it. So if you put a crossing and you just drop them down into a, a target, it’s not gonna work, right?

[00:21:41] if you look at a map, it sort of funnels down to this last 1600 feet and then funnels back up. Once you get them across again, there’s plenty of open space. So that’s where it’s going to go. And that’s the, the why this location, but I think you had some questions about design too, right?

[00:21:59] Michael: Yeah I guess a couple of things when you envision a crossing, I think maybe the first thing that comes to mind would be something like an overpass you might see of another road, but there are a special design considerations to attract the wildlife in the first place. So I guess the two questions I have is what do you do to make that crossing look appealing to.

[00:22:22] Animals. And we’ve been focused so much on the mountain lions. I’m assuming that there are other considerations beyond mountain lions as well, other animals, other maybe even insects and plants that that you want to make sure you have connectivity to.

[00:22:33] Beth Pratt: Yeah, those are really good questions. And I think it gets at like how do you design a wildlife crossing? And, the there’s, what’s great is there’s decades of wildlife crossing science now. And they are, I mean, these things across the globe are largely successful. You’re talking 80, 90% success rates that, they reduce vehicle mortality, I mean everything.

[00:22:53] Right. But it’s interesting. We’re also , setting some science and that We’re building a wildlife crossing so that the big stuff can get across the road, like the mountain lions, but we actually don’t get a lot of roadkill at Liberty Canon because it’s such a barrier, right?

[00:23:07] So roadkill is a really good indicator where you need crossings, but lack of road kill can be just as important in an indicator, meaning they’re avoiding it. And so when you design a wildlife crossing, one of the things. To keep in mind is the goal. What is the goal? What is the need here? And our need is very different.

[00:23:25] I would say I can’t find a precedent for this. Most of the crossings are great. I’m not, I mean, it’s, they’re just different. Again, they had a different project goal. They need to get wildlife crossing across the road to prevent roadkill, like the one in Utah. I love Pawley’s canyon. I visited it.

[00:23:38] They have great videos of the wildlife. They were preventing what they call slaughter alley. There. Literally it had a nickname that stretcher road. But you’ll see the top of their crossing, very different it’s gravel. It’s, it’s not a natural landscape because that’s all they needed.

[00:23:51] They just needed to get the wildlife across the road. If you didn’t put that crossing in, would the animals there go extinct? The deer are probably not, they just keep getting killed, which is bad, but still you’re not talking about sort of the extinction of species or, is an entire ecosystem cutoff because of that road.

[00:24:08] No, and that’s what I think makes Liberty canyon a little different, what we’re doing here. Yes. The Mount lines are most eminently at risk. And so that is a huge design consideration, but we took a more global look given what the science is showing. And the science is also showing the genetic isolation of lizards and birds.

[00:24:27] So this was a whole scale ecosystem approach that literally is going to have. Everything that should be in that ecosystem on top. It’s going to be sort of a as our Robert rock one of the architects working on it, calls it a green roof on steroids. I think a lot of us know about green roofs. So we’re going to have a living functioning ecosystem on top.

[00:24:48] So not only will animals cross it, but you’re going to have lizards and birds and butterflies living on top of it. And it’s specifically being designed for that. Also want to add in plants, listen, I’m not a big flower person. You know, I can’t keep as much in my brain, but you know what I’ve learned from this with climate change and drought, not only do wildlife need connectivity to be resilient, but so do plants, they need for dispersal reasons, the same genetic flexibility for lack of a better word that wildlife needs.

[00:25:17] So , this really is more a whole scale ecosystem connection, which I think. More we’ll follow suit after this, and that’s the design considerations, but to get in the weeds a little bit, if you were just designing for animals, there’s just lots of considerations.

[00:25:33] We looked at a tunnel early on. One of the reasons we ruled out a tunnel was not every animal will use tunnels. Deer won’t use it. Deer will use underpasses, but when you talk about a dark tunnel under 10 lanes of freeway, not all wildlife will use it.

[00:25:48] Michael: It sounds scary for a deer.

[00:25:50] Beth Pratt: Yeah, exactly to them that they don’t like to get back into spaces that are dark, where they can’t see plus you wouldn’t be able to vegetated is going to be a dark tunnel.

[00:25:59] So you take the, the connecting it for plants. So a tunnel left a lot of wildlife off the table. Also what was interesting is it was likely going to be more expensive. Caltrans looked at it as part of the feasibility study. And I will dazzle you with some Caltrans terms. I’ve had to learn a lot about engineering and transportation projects, but they would’ve had to do a, they can’t drill.

[00:26:20] The size tunnel they need for wildlife under the freeway. They’d have to do what they call a cut and cover, which is actually cut open the one-on-one and lower a Molden. No way we would lose all support for this project. If we shut down the one. So that got rolled out. So again, just, we had enlist and this wasn’t me making this decision.

[00:26:39] We had wildlife crossings experts from all over the world, come out and do site tours, assess where was the best location? What was the best solution? And they kept coming back to Liberty and an overpass is, that’s a thing that’s going to do it. But if you look at other areas like, if you have roads, deer, we’ll use short roads, if you have light, underpasses and so will, other animals you look at the Banff crossing.

[00:26:59] Those are overpasses that, wildlife of all species use. So it really is, how you design these, getting at the project goal. And then your last question, how do you get the wildlife to. , unfortunately, yeah, you just can’t put up a sign wildlife crossing here but actually it does become a sign.

[00:27:16] I mean, I like to say the wildlife themselves are really smart. They don’t want to cross our roads. And once they find it once sort of world gets out in the animal world and it does I mean that those were friends of mine, again, pathways for wildlife, Tonya diamond that video of the Badger and the coyote, sort of working together.

[00:27:35] That is what happens. Right. Wildlife

[00:27:37] Michael: And that was that’s just two miles, maybe three miles away from my house here where that video is taken.

[00:27:42] Beth Pratt: Isn’t that great. You had that wonderful tale. It’s you know, it does sort of that this sort of cooperation, or at least communication, is going to get out in the animal world. But also we design things and this is where the science of crossings really, has shown what works.

[00:27:55] One is exclusionary fencing. So you don’t give them options, right? You want to lead them. And we’re probably going to put miles of fencing that they’re not going to have other options. They’re going to have to use this crossing. Also, you plan the landscaping, we know animals like to travel in grades or in Creek beds or you name it.

[00:28:13] So you sort of grade the vegetation to sort of lead them. But I will say, I just think the animals themselves Liberty, especially. My prediction is they’re going to use it. That ribbon cuts. It is going to be a highway because what we have, again, that’s a little different from other crossings in more remote areas is that funnel animals are funneled here already, and they’re already trying to use it.

[00:28:35] Other areas. It can take the animals sometime to find because they’re in remote areas, they have lots of options. But even those areas, I will say, I visited a crossing in Colorado, out in the middle of nowhere. That one literally when they finished the deer started using it a couple of days later.

[00:28:51] There’s some crossings up in Washington state where they had a series of crossings. They’re building one that was still under construction. The deer were trying to get across. So I think the animals themselves are really the best teachers. And they’re smart. They’re gonna, they’re going to see.

[00:29:07] And look at someone like he’s one of the lucky ones and most of them don’t make it across, but, they are seeking out constantly safe passages, wildlife, large and small. I mean, they, they just, as much as roadkill gets hit, it’s almost like they don’t have a choice and they don’t have the skills we do to sometimes look both ways.

[00:29:28] But they really do want safe options. So I think, they seek it out themselves.

[00:29:32] Michael: Yeah. And wow. My head is my brain anyways is spinning with a whole bunch of different thoughts. He’s like the whole, one of the major drivers for this was the genetic isolation. And you mentioned that’s true for many other species as well. And of course, if you’re isolated and trapped by a freeway, then if a disaster comes along a wildfire or something like that, you’re also trapped.

[00:29:53] You can’t escape nearly as easily. But the thing that you said that really peaked my interest was even the birds are having issues with becoming isolated. And I had to think about that for a moment. Maybe you can elaborate, but I, the first vision, you think of when you hear a bird is like a free flying animal that, that has a wide range, but that’s not always the case.

[00:30:15] Can you tell me a little bit more about what you saw and found with respect to genetic isolation?

[00:30:21] Beth Pratt: Yeah. I give a lot of talks now on thinking about connectivity differently, everything from how, your backyard fence or lights might impede wildlife movement, so I think, and again, this has been a learning process for me.

[00:30:34] But we tend to think of birds as all right. Yeah, they’re fine. Right. They can get anywhere. I mean, birds get killed on freeways too, especially 10 lane freeway. I mean, it is not the easiest to navigate. But we also have birds like quail. that use the ground a lot, or we’re, again, birds that don’t trap.

[00:30:54] I mean, there are birds that migrate thousands of miles, but you have species that don’t make those large journeys as well. Right. That are a little more localized in the Santa Monica mountains. But yeah, I mean, especially the ground species, I mean, quills fly, but they travel a lot on the ground.

[00:31:10] A quail is not going to make a grand flight across , the one-on-one right. And same with the smaller species. It’s not that they need to travel long distances, but how do you get genetic diversity? It’s sort of, here’s a population that overlaps with this population that overlaps.

[00:31:24] A freeway cuts it off. But I will say even for the birds that can successfully let’s say or at least try the one-on-one and then obviously there’s a fair amount. There’s been studies that they actually will change their flight paths to fly over these crossings. Because again, it’s, they want the green space.

[00:31:40] They don’t want to have to deal with cars or the wind patterns or the noise or the lights lights affect bird migration significantly. Dr. Travis long core has done some really incredible studies. And in fact, we’re designing the cross. To block the light pollution from the freeway and the noise pollution Fraser Schilling has done a lot of noise studies that is really helping to inform crossings.

[00:32:04] And he did a noise study at Liberty. The noise is something we have to that’s part of the design. That, again, other crossings don’t have to contend with you look at a lot of crossings, they’ve kind a chain link fence, to just prevent the wildlife for getting in the road. We have to design a vegetated sound wall because of the noise and light pollution that would encourage them to cross having the noise of 300,000 cars a day is not going to encourage them to cross.

[00:32:29] It’s not gonna, it’s not gonna make them feel safe. Yeah, it is interesting to me, what does. Block animal connectivity and bird migrations, butterfly migrations, I’m on the one-on-one and I see poor butterflies trying to navigate it. It’s heartbreaking. These freeways are a barrier in ways we don’t think about, it’s not just the large roadkill.

[00:32:52] Michael: I recall a couple of years ago, taking a trip down to death valley. And in fact it was part of, it was part of that ecology class that the teacher who recommended your book was leading.

[00:33:03] Beth Pratt: Oh, wow.

[00:33:04] Michael: and there was a discussion that we had about how looking at the grills of cars was a good way to study insects because so many insects are hit by cars and and the mortality rates are so high.

[00:33:16] So that’s a really good point too, that I think often gets overlooked.

[00:33:20] Beth Pratt: Yeah, no insect biodiversity. I mean, we did use to get way more insects on our windshield when I was growing up and you don’t know, so yeah.

[00:33:28] Michael: And the other thought that came to mind as you were describing the bird situation is this concept of an ecological trap where you’re like the birds that live in the isolated area. They don’t really have a need to leave. Like for example, I’m thinking like Buicks ruins or some of the small birds, they stay in a cluster of shrubs, their whole lives basically.

[00:33:50] And they have everything they need Right. there. But they have the genetic diversity aspect comes into play. So they don’t really have a desire to go leave, but now they’re only breeding with the other birds that are in that space. And yeah, that’s, part of the nuance of the problem

[00:34:03] Beth Pratt: Yeah, exactly. I mean, that’s the thing with the smaller critters. It’s not that you need to get a lizard, a Western fence lizard to travel hundreds of miles. Right. They’re gonna, they’re gonna remain in their little small space, but if they’re just breeding with the same animals that are only in that small space, now you have a problem of, okay.

[00:34:21] That genetic, the genetic diversity is lacking because you don’t have , any diversity coming in. Cause that freeway is blocking. So

[00:34:28] Michael: And then if those birds are also responsible for seed dispersal or other things, and yeah.

[00:34:33] Then it just, this trickle down effect. It’s back to John Muir. Everything is hitched

[00:34:38] Beth Pratt: Everything’s hitched and you bring up again, what was eyeopening for me in this project? I had never thought about, again, plants needing movement. They do. And in your right, whether it be from animals, even mountain lions will disperse seeds because they’re eating, animals that eat seeds and right.

[00:34:54] I think of like up here in Yosemite, I’m working on this book on you, so many wildlife, and one of my favorite animals is the Clark’s Nutcracker because they don’t hibernate. May they have seven to 10,000 seed caches all over the high Sierra. I mean, they’re probably responsible for all the white bark pine forest.

[00:35:11] You see? And it’s the same thing. If, you impede movement Of birds who are dispersing the seeds or any animal. I mean, all animals, disperse seeds you, you use a human, get those annoying, seeds on your pants. And you’re, part of the, or pollinators, right?

[00:35:26] So if you’re a Monarch butterfly, you ain’t cross in the one-on-one or if you’re a B, so it is all connected. And I think that, again, the good news is we now know this, and we’re now thinking about wholesale systems and how humans can, even in these improbable places, at least, improve and see how we can get back to connectivity that we need.

[00:35:46] But yeah, we have a lot of work to do.

[00:35:47] Michael: So that may be, is a good lead in, I assume that going in and retrofitting this crossing over the one-on-one is a lot more expensive than if something like that had been built from the ground up. Do you see any initiatives that are promoting these activities? Like any any groups or resources that maybe some of my listeners, if they’re interested, can go take a look out and see.

[00:36:09] Beth Pratt: Absolutely. I think, Louis Sagan just did an article the LA times on the crossing and the work we’ve done and featured my tattoos, but he hit you. Louis is just such an incredible environmental writer. He had a great phrase in there about how it’s, this time is probably going to be known to future people as the age of wildlife crossings.

[00:36:28] And wildlife crossings are nothing new, but they, I don’t think we’re in the public consciousness as they are now. And. What we’re seeing is this is one of those, like in a world where we can’t agree on anything. Most people agree on this. Most environmental problems are hard to like climate change, which we work on like, oh my God, there’s no magic bullet there.

[00:36:47] You know what? There’s a magic bullet in this one. It is put the crossing up and the animals get across the road. And it’s also something really concrete. Right. You see a structure. So I think, most people don’t like roadkill. They love wildlife and. Yeah, no public support is incredibly high for these wildlife crossings.

[00:37:06] It’s not that there aren’t people against, but overwhelmingly people support these Liberty Canon. For example, when we went out for public comment as part of Caltrans environmental process, it was like 8800, 4 and 15 against, I mean, that’s unheard of in public projects, usually it’s like 50 50.

[00:37:22] So I think it’s great that the public’s really embrace these as something that we can do. It’s a problem that we can really solve. And what you’re seeing now is this is translating into action and Liberty Canada’s is a great example. I mean, we have almost 5,000 donors from all over the world, Donating to this, not just saying we like it, but donating, everything from Wallace, Annenberg’s generous $25 million donations to all sides.

[00:37:50] Donation counts to governor Newsome in secretary Crowfoot putting, not just money for Liberty in the budget, but last year’s budget, there was 60 million to improve connectivity. I know California wants to be a leader in this fear, and indeed there are project law class to state. I sit on a wildlife crossing, working group there’s projects, maybe not as far as long as Liberty, but in the queue all over the state that are up and coming.

[00:38:13] So I think we really are on the cusp of. Just the surgeons. And I love that Liberty. Canada’s kind of, at least for California, like this, there are crossings in California. Most of them are under passes, but like this big project, that 300 to 400,000 people a day are going to see. Right. So that’s inspiring you.

[00:38:31] Most of these crossings are in areas, very few people see. So I love that we’re going to have this like wildlife processing, sort of immersion for a huge amount of the population that will spur more, but you’re also seeing federally. Again, other states, Wyoming has been doing crossings for a long time.

[00:38:48] They’re a model they’re mainly dealing with, again, these vast ungulate migrations. We don’t really have those in the Sierra a little bit. And other states have done it, but you’re now seeing in federal embrace my organization the national wildlife Federation was key in 350 million now in the federal budget for wildlife crossing.

[00:39:07] So yeah, I think , to Louis’s wonderful phrase, this is the age of wildlife crossing. It’s the science is now there. We have decades of it. The public support is there and now you have government putting up the investments. So I think these are gonna just start popping up in, so many places.

[00:39:24] Michael: Yeah. Exciting. And for all the things you’ve mentioned, your, the article that you referenced in the LA times, I’ll link to those, of course, in the show notes for people wanting to learn more about wildlife crossings, or maybe even just mountain lions for that matter. Do you have any references or pointers that, that might be helpful just more in the science or the ecology behind these things?

[00:39:47] Beth Pratt: Yeah, boy, God. I mean, you’re looking at my the viewers can’t see it, but my bookshelf there’s just so much, you know what? I like to start people off. Like I, there’s a lot of hard science books, but one of my favorite ways to, to, for people to sort of introduce to the lines, the national park service and the Santa Monica mountains has this great website, Puma profiles.

[00:40:07] And we did some trading cards. I wrote some trading cards based on some of these biographies for the save LA cougars project. But if you go to that website, you can link to, I forget the URL, but you can link to it in there. you know, You can read the biographies of some of the cats we’ve referenced, , we’re now up to over a hundred now, which is amazing.

[00:40:25] You know, This is a 20 year study, so some of them have passed on, but I think that’s a great entry point into mountain lions and in mountain lions science, the biographies come with some. Background, but also some science what happened to this cat? Why is it significant genetically things like that.

[00:40:41] On wildlife crossings and then, yeah, my God, there’s a ton of books. I’m looking at my bookshelf here. If if you want the hard science Cougar edited by Maurice Hornocker and Sharon Negri, that, that has a real great accumulation of papers.

[00:40:57] There’s, heart of a lion talks about the the line that hiked all the way to Connecticut by William Salzburg. If you’re interested in more sort of storytelling combined with science the Cougar arm, I mean, there’s just a, there’s no shortage of books.

[00:41:11] I think that’s a good entry point on wildlife crossings Ben Goldfarb he’s amazing. He has a book that he’s working on, but it’s not out yet, but if you follow him on Twitter or. He publishes a lot of great articles on crossings. But there’s a couple institutes or folks dedicated to wildlife crossing science.

[00:41:31] You can look at, if you have a great clearing house for papers or research, or just, links to projects. One is arc animal road crossings. You can go to their website and they actually help with Liberty canyon. They helped with two design workshops to help review the Caltrans plans and ensure obviously that the crossing elements were there.

[00:41:53] So they’re incredible. There’s the international conference on ecology and transportation ism. That is a biannual conference. People can attend. I mean, the talks are wonderful and, but that’s also a good clearing house.

[00:42:07] And that actually is has been organized the last few years by another resource I’d send you to that is California based Frazier Schilling, a heads up the UC Davis road, ecology center. He has a lot of great information in his published papers, especially he had a great one around the pandemic how the.

[00:42:23] Obviously we were driving less than these shut down areas, how, that really decreased roadkill significantly. Obviously, but still, that, that pointed to how our driving really impacts. So he’s a great resource. And then the Western transportation Institute, Rob and Matt and others has some good resources as well, but we’re really looking forward to, to Ben Gulf, our books.

[00:42:43] And I’m sure there’s a lot of them leaving out, asking on the fly. So I’ll send you links to other books and resources that folks can do. I mean, I think that the great news is there’s no shortage out there of information either on mountain lions or on wildlife crossings for folks to, to access.

[00:42:59] Michael: that’s great. And thank you for that. And there, there’ve been a lot of, sort of common themes with past guests as we’ve been talking today, Ben was actually a previous guest.

[00:43:08] Beth Pratt: Oh, that’s right. I forgot about that. Yeah, no, Ben’s yeah, he’s amazing.

[00:43:11] Michael: And of course that was more beaver oriented, but I do I am connected with him on Twitter and you’ll get equal parts, beaver, and road ecology if you follow him on Twitter.

[00:43:22] Beth Pratt: Yeah. Oh my God. His book on beavers alone is worth reading. Even the, I mean, this is aside from the wildlife crossing book coming out. It’s such a great book.

[00:43:30] Michael: So as we wrap up here , kind of a big question that I like to ask my guests and that’s, what has nature taught you about living with.

[00:43:39] Beth Pratt: That’s a great question, Michael. I think especially. During this pandemic, but a little before it, I mean, I’ve had some, some pretty, pretty devastating personal challenges the last few years and throughout my whole life what nature’s really done for me is give me that sort of peaceful.

[00:43:58] Place where I can recover and, just find solace and find healing, I think is what nature’s always done. Even as a little girl, you know, I remember if I got a bad grade or, something I’d go into the woods and, wander and always feel better. But I think what it’s done, I’d say in, my later adult life and God, I’m now in my fifties is teaching me about resiliency but I’m working on this book. .

[00:44:19] I knew so many wildlife and I’ve, I’m a, what did somebody call me a, the biggest cheerleader for your 70. It is for me it’s my north star. I wander in it every chance I get and have been doing so for. 30 years. And some of my favorite animals up there and what fascinated me, the ones that dwell in the Alpine country.

[00:44:36] So 10,000 feet above, I mean, this is harsh living. This is not easy living, you’re talking, snow most of the year you’re talking even in the summer it’s cold. It’s, there’s very little vegetation obviously, cause you’re above tree line. Yet these animals, like the piko my God, a tiny little thing, right?

[00:44:54] , the size of a potato, like Lauren’s over these vast, huge landscapes and makes it on it. Doesn’t hibernate, like literally survive the winter under snow, eating dried grass. And it left out in the summer for hay and.

[00:45:10] Michael: and.

[00:45:10] up there, it’s not just, no, it can be 10 feet of snow.

[00:45:13] Beth Pratt: Exactly. I mean, or these butterflies I’ve become fascinated in the last five years with butterflies, especially in Alpine butterflies. These are butterflies, literally soaring overpasses at 12,000 feet and landing there and mating and some of them were tattered wings and, still going on and yeah, cause butterfly’s lives are really short and , they don’t grow back wings.

[00:45:37] So if they get injured or get, they still keep going and the somebody towed who, we don’t think of frogs or toads is living on snow. This, I, this toad lives at high elevations and literally walk a mile sometimes over snow to get to their breeding grounds. So I think is, at least for me, I, you just sorta take.

[00:45:56] The safety of life for granted. And I think the pandemic really appended that, but the animal world doesn’t, and I think, they, their world can be appended at any moment and they keep going, I mean, a weasel shows up in the PICA, granted, they, they got to defend it. They can’t predict that they can’t control that.

[00:46:14] And I think. If a butterfly can fly over 12,000 feet with tattered wings that to me is an inspiration , we can do it. We got this too. And despite, I mean, these things aren’t easy. But I think the natural world can show us in some respects they have less choices than we do, but on the other hand they try to make it through some challenges that I think I can’t even conceive of.

[00:46:37] So they that’s, what nature has done for me is just teach me about resiliency and. What it takes to live. I think that, again, we get a little lulled into a false sense of security with our modern living, but in some respects we haven’t left that natural world. Not even in some respects, we haven’t left it.

[00:46:57] We just forget. We forget. We have. And so I think that’s what nature has really done for me.

[00:47:03] Michael: And you’re right. The pandemic sort of outlines what we do control and don’t control.

[00:47:07] Beth Pratt: I think I, I think the it is a great example of how our thinking us separate or. Distinct or that we can control the natural world is just so false. The virus doesn’t follow the rules of technology or the rules of, engineering. It follows the natural world rules.

[00:47:26] And getting back to the larger point of this talk the lack of connectivity and the lack of habitat is what is fueling pandemics. So if we don’t, start paying attention and getting back to what is needed to make the natural world hold, which we are squarely in, not a separate piece of or climate change.

[00:47:44] Right? I mean, look at the fires recently in Colorado, that is, 130 mile an hour winds and a wildfire in December I mean, me and the Sierra, the wildfire, I mean, the fire regime is done even wildfires. I hate calling them that these are human caused firestorms again, because we sort of thought we could control or disconnect from the natural world.

[00:48:04] So on a hopeful note is that I think what’s great is the natural world can tell us what we can do to fix this because, they have the solutions. It’s just so reconnecting to me is a very hopeful, I think, Wallis, Annenberg has this beautiful quote about the wildlife crossing that this is an environmental rejuvenation.

[00:48:24] So I guess that what wildlife does for me is rejuvenate me. And I am seeing that is starting to take a trend with other people that a rejuvenation, not just around that we need to fix these problems, but also personal rejuvenation.

[00:48:41] Michael: It’s great for reset for sure. And you mentioned your upcoming wildlife book. Can you tell me a little bit about that and any other upcoming projects that you’re working on that you’d like to.

[00:48:51] Beth Pratt: Yeah. I, you know, people keep asking me, oh my God. So what’s next? After the wildlife crossing break ground first like the work doesn’t end, in fact, in some respects, it gets a little busier, but I certainly it’ll get a little less of sort of pressure right. To get this thing to break ground.

[00:49:10] So I’m, I actually am looking forward to having a life again. And one of the projects I’ve been wanting to work on actually for decades now. Started getting serious about it now that this groundbreaking, his insight is I always want to write a book on Yosemite wildlife. And the last book solely dedicated to Yosemite wildlife.

[00:49:27] Not that there haven’t been excellent books that include mentioned a wildlife or field guides or stuff. But that was really written, focusing on so many wildlife was in 1924, the, famous Grinnell and store a book, which is a Bible it’s in my library, but. Nobody had ever revisited that, which sounds weird.

[00:49:42] Right. Even I thought there’d be something out there. Right. But indeed, you sent me, most people focus on the rocks, right? Waterfalls, that’s the scenery. My partner reached out to this photographer who actually had written an essay for his photography book on the nature of his Semini Rob her.

[00:49:58] She’s amazing. And I said, would you , like to partner up with me and he’s on board and the Yosemite Conservancy who I used to work for a long time. We gave him a proposal and they were like, yes. So I am really excited to be writing this. And it’s, it’s not there’ll be lots of science in it, but you know, my style, Michael, for Woodmont lines or neighbors we’re going to lead with what’s wonderous and amazing.

[00:50:22] And the stories behind you, so many wildlife. And so I’m just like over the moon, although it’s, it’s a lot of work, but I’ve been in the . Yosemite a research library, uncovering such beautiful things, old wildlife observation cards from the thirties. And so that’s one thing, but that’s my personal life.

[00:50:39] My job it’s, we’re going to make more of these projects go. I mean, we’re not stopping with Liberty canyon, Liberty Canon is the. Obviously to me, the biggest obstacle in Southern California, but Dr. Watson Vickers is having the same issue with the population of cats. He studied down in orange county.

[00:50:57] I just started advising with this project on 3 95. It’s led by Kate Rodriguez of Caltrans and have just been helping them. And they just got their first big grant from the wildlife conservation board. It’s amazing. This is a really cool project. Hey, cause it’s in the Sierra. So it’s in my backyard and the place I love.

[00:51:16] But also I said earlier in this podcast, we don’t have the vast ungulate migrations. lot of these Rocky mountain wildlife crossings do, and that’s true. We just, don’t a lot of the crossings in California. I think it’s important to point out these aren’t historic thousand year corridors.

[00:51:31] They’re all we have left where animals can cross the road. But this one on 3 95 actually is the mule deer. Historic mule deer migration is at least one thing they need to solve. Their other animals are getting hit. So I’m really excited about that one as well. And then also just radiating out from Liberty canyon.

[00:51:48] The national parks have is again, there’s just such great science. They’ve identified sort of the next priorities, like 1 18, 1 26. And even further down on the one-on-ones. There’s more crossings in my future. I just want to get as many of these built as possible. I think the good news is we started out with the heaviest seal, the hardest and most challenging projects.

[00:52:09] So it all gets easier from here in some respects, but so yeah, those are, that’s what I’m excited and just, being able to sleep more.

[00:52:16] Michael: Yeah.

[00:52:16] Beth Pratt: I’m also excited about being able to nap more after Liberty

[00:52:19] Michael: Yeah, that can be a project too, just for making time for self care.

[00:52:22] Beth Pratt: Yeah. Yup.

[00:52:24] Michael: So how can how can people keep up to date then with your work and your progress? Are you on social media or you have a specific websites you want to point people at.

[00:52:32] Beth Pratt: Yeah. I mean, first of all, if you’re interested in the Wiles Annenberg, wildlife crossing and staying up to date, save LA cougars.org, you can sign up for our email list. You can follow on Facebook. Line of Hollywood. Those are two good places to plug in with. The wildlife crossing projects specifically.

[00:52:49] For me, you can yeah, Facebook, I, all my posts are public. If you’re a Facebook person, I do a lot of wildlife posts. Same thing with Twitter. I think I’m Beth Pratt, one on Facebook and Beth Pratt on Twitter and you’re 70 Bethy on Instagram. I’m really easy to find if you just Google Beth Pratt, Cougar, or my line, I also have a website, Beth pratt.com and you can sign up for.

[00:53:13] Email is there if you want, I don’t spam, it’s all coming personally for me. I’ll talk about wildlife sightings I’ve had or things like that. But yeah, all my social accounts, I think, Michael really once in a while I’ll get political but a lot of just celebrating the wildlife I see in the wild world around us.

[00:53:30] So that’s a good place to plug in.

[00:53:31] Michael: And I think I’ve missed a few of those myself. So I’m going to have to go back and make sure I’m following you appropriately and all the different platforms.

[00:53:38] Beth Pratt: I’d say Facebook right now is where I do most cause it’s just a little easier to share. A lot of the big Instagram is all wildlife. I only literally almost, just always put my best wildlife photos on there. And then yeah, Twitter, I do. I’m on Twitter a lot too. It’s a little harder to share in bulk and do the, sort of you’re limited by characters, but I’m there sharing stuff.

[00:54:00] Michael: And I just wanted to point out to, you mentioned account which is another reason why is so amazing was perhaps the only mountain lion who has taken to social media. I there’s a couple year, right? Yeah.

[00:54:13] Beth Pratt: He’s done all. He’s definitely. He’s He’s got like 16,000 followers. Yeah.

[00:54:17] Michael: an influencer for sure.

[00:54:19] Beth Pratt: don’t tell anybody, but it’s me. I’ll tell you, if you talk about my favorite part ever in my career, what was the most favorite thing?

[00:54:28] And the best thing that is being P 22 on Facebook. I now have, I started out as me. I now have this incredible person. Tony, you also helps out with her her company, humanity communications, collective. Cause I can’t do it all anymore, but I still am posting as him. That is the most favorite thing I’ve ever done in my career because people talk to him, oh my God.

[00:54:47] I mean, you know, I’ll post something and when they do, or we let you know what I mean, they ask them questions, they make jokes. That’s and then having to post as a Mt line, like having to get into a Mount lion’s head. And then actually the funnest part is, obviously if Facebook or Twitter, like you have, you have to switch accounts.

[00:55:05] And sometimes I forget, so I’ll do a Mt line post on my own personal and people are like, why is she talking about, eating deer? Or so that gets fun as well.

[00:55:15] Michael: I could see that happening, really easily.

[00:55:17] Beth Pratt: Yeah

[00:55:18] Michael: I have to say that I’m a little disappointed. I thought it was really sending those.

[00:55:22] Beth Pratt: sorry. Yeah, I know, I know it’s hard to break it to people, but he has gave me agency to speak for him.

[00:55:28] Michael: Okay. You’re one with P 22 at this point.

[00:55:31] Beth Pratt: Yes.

[00:55:32] Michael: It’s really been a lot of fun talking with you today. And as is always the case. I, these discussions, it feels like we only scratched the surface, but at the same time, I’m walking away feeling really fulfilled by everything we did cover.

[00:55:43] So thank you so much again for making time for this. And I hope you enjoyed it. And I hope the listeners enjoy.

[00:55:50] Beth Pratt: Michael, I know it’s a pleasure to talk with you. I mean, I think, I just, I love people like you who really, want to understand conservation and you just, you have such good questions. You obviously really dive into the source material, but more importantly, I think, you want animals to thrive.

[00:56:04] It’s evidence. So thanks for having me on. And I’ve just been also the background where we’ve been talking of that beautiful Eagle golden Eagle you have over your shoulder. It’s like, you actually had one. So thanks for having that too, but no, thanks for having me.

[00:56:16] Michael: Yeah, it almost looks like it’s sitting on my shoulder.

[00:56:18] Beth Pratt: Yeah, it does. It really does.

[00:56:20] But now thanks for being you. I mean, I always say this every time I do an interview, it’s the storyteller. It is, enabling wildlife to have a voice through people like me and you. That gets something like a Liberty canyon crossing built. Science will only take you so far. You need the science, but the public will is all about empowering voices telling the stories of these wildlife and that’s media platforms like yours.

[00:56:44] Thanks. Thanks for focusing on conservation and wealth.

2 thoughts on “#38: Beth Pratt – The Age of Wildlife Crossings

  1. I first came across these crossings years ago when I lived in Europe. I think they are a wonderful idea and would hopefully cut down on wildlife being hit and killed here in the states. We keep building communities and displacing all the wildlife in that area so where they supposed to go and how do they get there. But we need them all over…So hopefully they start becoming more of a reality.


    1. Totally agree! And as Beth mentioned in this episode, it is much worse than just the road kill. Isolated populations lead to genetic decline. California just passed legislation that requires wildlife crossings to be considered for all new roads and road improvements. “A.B. 2344 would require Caltrans to identify barriers to wildlife movement and prioritize crossings when designing new roads or making road improvements.” https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220AB2344


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