Safe Passage

Mountain lions, mule deer, coyotes and bobcats living in the Santa Ana Mountains meander through the protected habitats with ease — and peace of mind is provided for drivers — thanks to one of the Transportation Corridor Agencies’ crowning achievements in environmental protection. 

The Wildlife Protection Fence along the 241 Toll Road, a years-in-the-making success story, helps maintain wildlife movement and connectivity and reduces wildlife-vehicle collisions. The 10- to 12-foot-high fence was designed as a result of a joint study with the University of California, Davis into the movement and health of the area’s wildlife.

In addition to shielding them from the road, the fence, which spans both sides of a six-mile stretch of the 241, funnels wildlife to existing wildlife bridges and culvert undercrossings that allow them protected passage to open spaces on either side of the road.

The fence is a portrait of what can be accomplished by doing what’s needed versus just what is required to check a box, said Dr. Doug Feremenga, TCA’s manager of environmental planning. While the fence was initially conceived as part of TCA’s mitigation requirement for the construction of the toll roads that comprise the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency, TCA went well beyond what was required to provide real results that have lasting impact on the area’s wildlife. “We took the best of what others had done with wildlife fencing and applied those concepts to our environment. Now, our fence is the template that others follow,” Feremenga said.

The fence has set the standard for good reason. In the three years of post-construction monitoring, the fence eliminated wildlife-vehicle collisions for three of the target species (cougar, bobcat and deer) and reduced them over 90% for the fourth species (coyote). 

Undoubtedly, the success has come as a result of extra safeguards built in to protect wildlife and drivers. Feremenga explains that the fence is buried 24 inches beneath the ground to prevent coyotes from digging underneath it. If a deer gets its nose into even a small hole, it can take a hold and find a path outside the fence to potential danger. Further, diamond-shaped fencing acts as a deterrent for cats that may otherwise try to paw their way through the fence. And a three-strand barbwire outrigger provides an extra safeguard so wildlife don’t climb over the top. 

In April, TCA celebrated a milestone achievement as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed that the mitigation efforts achieved by the 241 Wildlife Fence have greatly improved wildlife connectivity and reduced vehicular mortality of wildlife in the project area. 

“The recognition by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service demonstrates the remarkable positive impact of TCA’s environmental efforts. Protecting and preserving wildlife and habitats is among our most important initiatives,” Feremenga said. Put simply, “It’s a big deal,” he said. 

Monitoring of the fence includes collision tracking in addition to monitoring cameras at bridge undercrossings, jump-out ramps, culverts and fence endpoints to detect any breaches. 

The project has been lauded by the community and upon completion received the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Association of Environmental Professionals (AEP).

Fence facts

  • The fence is 10–12 feet high 
  • It spans both sides of a 6-mile stretch of the 241
  • Fence is constructed of 9-gauge and 2-inch diamond mesh chain link
  • The fence is buried 2 feet to prevent wildlife from digging under it
  • Fence was constructed at a price or $10 million 
  • Approximately 180 acres of habitat use is open to wildlife thanks to the project 

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