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Highway 17 Wildlife Crossing

Preservation Through Collaboration

Fast Facts

This unprecedented partnership led by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County and joined by Caltrans, the Regional Transportation Commission, Graniterock, and local landowners keeps cars and wildlife safely apart.

  • $12M

    Project Budget
  • 790

    Total Connected Acres Protected
  • 65K

    Average# of Cars Per Day on HWY 17
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A Safe Passage for Deer

Deer crossing HWY 17 are a danger to themselves & drivers. Now they can go underneath.

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SC Biker

The HWY 17 wildlife tunnel at Laurel Curve will provide long-ranging wildlife — most notably Santa Cruz mountain lions — with safe passage under the heavily trafficked highway. A 10-year long research project began in 2012 between the UCSC Puma Project and Pathways for Wildlife and the Land Trust. The project collected information from collared pumas, wildlife cameras, and animal-vehicle collision data. Deer, bobcats, foxes, and mountain lions have all been caught on camera trying to cross. 

Research by the Santa Cruz Puma Project's biologist, Chris Wilmers, shows both extensive use of the area by mountain lions – and the deaths of three of them in recent years. Wilmers called the Laurel Curve area "the best opportunity for maintaining puma connectivity across Highway 17 in Santa Cruz County."

A five-year study identified Laurel Curve as the ideal location for the crossing. In 2014 the Land Trust took the first step by protecting a 10-acre property off Laurel Road. The Land Trust has since protected an additional 790 acres around the site.

 The stretch of highway at Laurel Curve is built over large natural drainage, creating the ideal place to install a large box culvert. The roadway above serves as a bridge, with the area underneath becoming the wildlife crossing. 

The undercrossing is wider and more welcoming for wildlife than a tunnel. The unique partnership created a new mitigation incentive framework for conservation and wildlife protection projects in California, paving the way for SB790. The law supports the implementation of wildlife crossings statewide using the model pioneered on this project

Available Activities

  • No human activities allowed: This area is for wildlife only.

More Information and Updates

Discover the history of this location and check back for news on future projects.


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