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a wildlife tunnel under Highway 17 at Laurel Curve are gathering strength. Plus the overpasses of Highway 101 over Coyote Creek serve the same purpose by providing safe corridors for all migrating animals to cross between the mountain ranges. The California Department of Fish and Game estimates that there is a population of 4,000 lions in California with that number being stable or slightly shrinking in recent years due to habitat encroachment. In 1990, Proposition 117, “the mountain lion initiative,” was successfully passed and reclassifed cougars as “specially protected mammals” and permanently banned the “sport hunting” of mountain lions in California. In prior years, in 1907 to 1963 for example, mountain lions were called a “bountied predator” and nearly 12,500 animals were shot, poisoned or trapped and turned in for bounty money. The Mountain Lion Foundation based in Sacramento has a wealth of information about how concerned citizens can protect GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN cougars, their habitats and still safely enjoy our wonderful out- door opportunities. “Mountain lions filfill a complex role in our local environment. They keep the deer and elk herds on the move so that they do not overgraze particular areas minimizing erosion along riparian corridors and thereby enhancing habitat for other animals. Think of mountain lions as guardians of the wilderness. Though rarely seen, the raw beauty and power of the cougar helps maintain our wild spaces that we know and love.” MAY/JUNE 2016 gmhtoday.com 47