Highway Crossing Success Story — Part 2 — The Solution

Today we’ll tackle New Mexico’s plan to reduce collisions between vehicles and wildlife on a busy skein of highways outside of its largest city. The plan included state-of-the-art technology and techniques and makes a worthy blueprint for other ambitious highway mitigation highway projects.

Read the details of the wildlife collision mitigation plan here.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss how it all worked out.

Photo: courtesy Tijeras Canyon Safe Passage Coalition

Highway Crossing Success Story — Part 1 — The Problem

Two weeks ago we mentioned a vehicle-wildlife collision mitigation project in New Mexico that had installed cutting-edge electro-shock mats to prevent wildlife from crossing a highway. The switch was flipped on those mats four years ago and there has been plenty of time to evaluate whether the ambitious and comprehensive mitigation project worked.

In a State Wildlife Research News exclusive report, over the next three days we’ll take a look at the wildlife collision problem at Tijeras Canyon, the state-of-the-art suite of solutions installed to solve it, and what has happened there over the last four years.

Today, we’ll take a look at the wildlife collision problem. Does this highway resemble any that you worry about?

Read part one of the story here.

Photo: I-40 east of Albuquerque, NM. Photo credit: courtesy of the Tijeras Canyon Safe Passage Coalition.

Short Commute for Florida State Biologists

A major colony of roseate terns, a state and federally listed threatened species, is located on the roof of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Marathon, Fla., in the Florida Keys. It contains about 67 nests. The colony has been there since 1996, making monitoring the colony an easy day in the field for the state biologists working in the building below.

Read more in this article in the Florida Keys News/Marathon Free Press.

Photo: Alcides Morales, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Wildlife Under Fire

With wildfires burning in Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia in addition to the headline-grabbing Arizona Wallow Fire, this article from the Denver Post on the Arizona fire’s effect on endangered wildlife is worth a look.

The news: while adult spotted owls should have been able to fly away from tree crown fires, their nestlings and young likely didn’t make it. Find out more about species ranging from wolves to trout in the Denver Post story.

Photo: This is a controlled burn on a Maryland national wildlife refuge, but you get the idea. Photo credit: Catherine Hibbard, courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

Wildlife Pathology Solves the Case

Shotgun blast or virus? Who done it? Or what done it? You may have turned to the U.S. Geological Service’s National Wildlife Health Laboratory in Madison, Wisc. to answer some of your most pressing wildlife mysteries. Here’s a view behind the scenes at the lab, with a focus on veterinary pathologist Carol Meteyer, in the current issue of Miller-McCune Magazine.

Read the story here.

Animals on the Move

Feral swine are moving into southern New York State, from scattered toe-holds in the northern part of the state. (Hopewell Evening Tribune)

Armadillos are heading north, perhaps because milder winters let them survive in unexpected places.(The Daily Climate)

Bears are returning to previously-burned regions of Arizona. Arizona Game and Fish warns returning home-owners in bear-prone areas to throw away spoiled food at the landfill. This is probably a good idea for residents returning to flooded areas in other states as well.

While there have been plenty of black bear sightings in urban and suburban areas all over the country, bears are causing more than the usual ruckus in densely populated New Jersey. (Newark Star-Ledger) See this article (Nyack Patch) and these articles also.

And in Greenwich, Connecticut, people are still seeing mountain lions. (Hartford Courant) (See last week’s post.)

Photo: John and Karen Hollingsworth, courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit’s Last Stand

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is making what may be a final attempt to restore the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit to its native habitat. A 2007 attempt to reintroduce zoo-bred rabbits into the wild ended in most of the naive rabbits being eaten by predators.

This time the rabbits will be released into a fenced enclosure, with gradual exposure to predators through smaller enclosures with tunnels to the outside. The rabbits are not pure-bred Columbia Basin pygmies, but have been bred with pygmy rabbits from Idaho and Oregon, which are not endangered. In fact, most other pygmy rabbits in the West thrive.

Read more in this article in the Idaho Statesman. An InsideScience report on the restoration is available via US News and World Report. Or read the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife press release. Read the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s species profile (well technically, a “distinct population segment” profile) here.

Photo: A pygmy rabbit of unknown distinct population segment, likely from Idaho, courtesy of the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Photo Credit: R. Dixon (IDFG) and H. Ulmschneider (BLM)

Nevada Law Lets Gov Appoint Wildlife Director

A bill signed into law this week in Nevada means that the state’s governor will have more of a say in who the state’s wildlife director will be. Previously, the Nevada governor needed to select a wildlife director from among the candidates submitted by the state’s Wildlife Commission. The new law eliminates that restriction on the governor’s appointment.

Read more about the new law in this article in The Danbury (Ct.) News-Times (Why a Connecticut outlet ran this Associated Press story on Nevada when few other outlets did is beyond me.) It also had the news when the bill passed the Nevada legislature.

The Daily Sparks Tribune has some of the background of the dust-up between governor and director that lead to the bill.

How Did the Animal Cross the Road? The Shocking Answer

One problem with fencing off highways so that large animals don’t wander on is that exits, entering roadways, and driveways can’t be fenced off. Animals on highways cause accidents, injury, and sometimes death for both the animal and passengers in the car that hits them. Often, fencing is crossed off the list of possibilities for directing wildlife crossings because there is simply too much other pavement entering the highway that can’t be fenced.

The California Department of Transportation is installing mats that deliver an electric shock to animals entering a highway in southern California. The stretch of Highway 101 has a problem with large animals causing accidents. The mats will be most helpful for keeping bears off the highway. The mats won’t shock cars or people wearing shoes.

Read the whole story in the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

This isn’t the first time shock mats have been used to keep wildlife off a highway. Four years ago New Mexico installed the mats as part of a whole suite of devices installed to reduce wildlife-caused accidents east of Albuquerque.
New Mexico Game & Fish press release
The most recent news on the project appears to be from The Christian Science Monitor, three years ago.
The Tijeras Canyon Safe Passage Coalition Web site looks like it hasn’t been updated since then.

Photo: Just a generic highway. No relation to the two mentioned.