How did the deer, pronghorn and elk cross the road?
Wildlife crossings are an important investment that can protect people and wildlife, and now we have a chance to fund these projects through the Surface Transportation Bill. This work consists of building overpasses and underpasses across highways that block mule deer and pronghorn migrations and creating culverts (pathways for water to flow under infrastructure) that allow turtles and amphibians to cross barriers safely. Combined with fences along roads to funnel animals to the crossings, wildlife crossings have proven to be the most effective measure to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions across America and around the world. These crossings also prevent roads from cutting off key migration corridors and fragmenting critical wildlife habitat.
Mule deer and pronghorn: The Wyoming Department of Transportation has constructed networks of crossings at Nugget Canyon and near Baggs over the last decade that have reduced ungulate-vehicle collisions by approximately 80 percent in these areas, and increased habitat connectivity for other species. The Trapper’s Point project near Pinedale, Wyoming, which includes six underpasses and two overpasses, has become world-renowned for reducing pronghorn and mule deer collisions and for protecting the “path of the pronghorn” migration. A network of 81 wildlife crossings over and under U.S. Highway 93 in Montana, combined with more than nine miles of fencing, reduced deer-vehicle collisions by over 90 percent.
California mountain lions and Florida panthers: By creating a safe passage for wildlife near Highway 101, the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing in California will be the largest wildlife crossing in the world, and a global model for urban wildlife conservation. The Florida Department of Transportation has constructed numerous wildlife underpasses on busy state roads throughout South Florida.
Salamanders: In Vermont, culverts installed along Vergennes Road have allowed hundreds of amphibians to safely cross the road, including blue-spotted salamanders, wood frogs, spring peepers, yellow-spotted salamanders, Eastern newts, and four-toed salamanders.
Moose: The Critical Paths Project in Vermont is identifying priority zones for wildlife crossings along the spine of the Green Mountains. This project will help species like moose, and will help enhance migration pathways, strengthen wildlife populations, and reduce animal-vehicle collisions.
Turtles: In Massachusetts, a culvert was installed under Route 44 to allow spotted turtles to cross a dangerous roadway that bisected two populations. While collisions with larger animals pose a threat to human life, it is also important to consider smaller species like reptiles and amphibians who may be more vulnerable to population level impacts.
Wildlife crossings benefit people and animals in several key ways:
- Reduce vehicle collisions with wildlife, protecting people and animals,
- Reduce associated expenses with animal collisions (estimated at $8 billion annually), and
- Help wildlife reach the resources they need, such as food, water, shelter, and breeding sites, which in turn supports the outdoor economy (worth $887 billion).
Federal investment through the Surface Transportation Bill is needed to ensure the safety of our transportation corridors and the future of our wildlife heritage.