Overpasses Top Underpasses?

Do bighorn sheep like highway wildlife overpasses better than underpasses? Arizona sports three wildlife overpasses over Highway 93 which were specifically designed for bighorn sheep. It also has three wildlife underpasses under Highway 68.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department recently reported that there were 229 bighorn sheep crossings at the three overpasses in a single month. There have been only 32 crossings at the underpasses in two years.

The Highway 93 overpasses also have a higher cuteness quotient than the underpasses. A bighorn ewe and her lamb were recently photographed crossing one of the overpasses.

Read the report from the Arizona Game and Fish Department, here. (Second item from the top.)

Photo courtesy Arizona Game and Fish Deparment.

Fed Stimulus Helped Wildlife

The Idaho Statesman isn’t sure if the federal stimulus plan helped the nation recover from the recession, but in an editorial today it says that it was a good thing for wildlife because allowed a local partnership, including Idaho Fish and Game, built a wildlife underpass on Idaho 21. The underpass is a success.

Read the very brief editorial, here.

Read more about the underpass, and its success, also in the Idaho Statesman, here.

March Roundup of New Research

Spring is here and a bunch of wildlife surveys are underway around the country.

In Delaware:
-It’s the fifth and final year of the Delaware Breeding Bird Atlas.
-A special effort is being made in 2012 to tally owls as part of the atlas.
Horseshoe crabs are being tallied again, and volunteers are being trained.
-The annual osprey count is offering a volunteer training for the first time since 2007.

Maryland is two years in to four years of surveys for an amphibian and reptile atlas and is looking for volunteers.

In Kansas, they are searching for lesser prairie chicken breeding areas, or leks, from the air with helicopters. Field crews will train on March 29-31 and conduct official survey work across all of western Kansas until the middle of May. TheĀ Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism is also asking people to report leks. The survey is part of a five-state effort, and the survey technique will be evaluated.

In North Dakota, the Game and Fish Department has launched a two-year study of white-tailed deer in intensely farmed agricultural areas.

In Maine, biologists at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have visited up to 100 dens each winter for 37 years, making the survey in the nation’s oldest radio-collar monitoring program for bears. This year the Maine Sunday Telegram wrote a story about it, with lots of pics. Read it here.

And in Washington, commuters have been reporting wildlife sightings for over a year on the I-90 corridor in anticipation of road improvements. The project’s first annual report was released recently, generating articles in the Everett HeraldĀ  and The Seattle Times, and coverage other media.

Photo of I-90 Wildlife Watch billboard by Paula MacKay/Western Transportation Institute, used by permission.

Public Continues to Misunderstand Sudden Bird Deaths

A starling, like the birds killed on I-95 in Maryland in FebruaryHundreds of starlings fell to the asphalt yesterday afternoon during rush hour on Interstate 95 near Laurel, Maryland, in the Washington, DC area. Traffic backed up as motorists tried to avoid running over the birds.

The Washington Post and ABC7 quote Maryland Department of Natural Resources biologist Peter Bedel as saying the birds likely just flew into a truck.

Lots of pics and videos of dead birds; lots of conjecture about the Aflockolypse of New Year’s Eve 2011.

Read the Washington Post story.
See the ABC7 story.
Here’s a brief in the Baltimore Sun.

Photo: A starling (not dead) by Dr. Thomas G. Barnes, courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Road Salt and Vernal Pools

There have been plenty of studies on the effects of road salt on wetlands, and particularly on the amphibians that live in those wetlands. (Here’s a bibliography with seven pages of peer-reviewed papers on the subject, plus over a page of other information sources.)

But because so much of that work was done by Nancy Karraker when she was at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, James Petranka of the University of North Carolina – Asheville wanted to know how road salt effected amphibians in the southeastern United States — the site of enormous salamander diversity, says an article in the Charlotte Observer.

What he found was that road salt’s impact on the invertibrates in a vernal pool is crucial to the development of the amphibians there, and possibly, to public health. That’s because the salamander larvae eat water fleas, copepods and other invertebrates that don’t fare well in salty water. What’s more, mosquitoes didn’t seem to have any problem with the salty water, and one of the mosquito species that volunteered in the salty test pools carries West Nile Virus.

Read the excellent article in the Charlotte Observer.

A paper on Petranka’s research was published in the journal Aquatic Ecology in 2010. Read the abstract here. (Fee or subscription required for the full article.)

The Adirondack road salt journal article that the newspaper article refers to is most likely this comprehensive 2008 paper on the impact of road salt on wood frogs and spotted salamanders in New York. (Because this article is cited in Petranka’s 2010 paper.)

But Karraker also published a compelling 2011 paper showing how road salt shrivels the egg masses of spotted salamanders that does not appear in her 2007 bibliography.

Photo: Spotted salamander by Tom Tyning, courtesy of the US Department of Transportation

Highway Crossing Success Story — Part 3 — The Results

A mule-deer’s eye view of the project.

Four years after the electricity first flowed through the fences and shock-mats of the Tijeras Canyon wildlife collision mitigation project, it’s safe to say the project is a success. Collisions between vehicles and wildlife in the canyon have been drastically reduced. Still, you can learn not only what to do from the project, but gather some tips on what to avoid when putting together your own project too.

Read about this project’s successes in the last installment of this exclusive report, here.

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.

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.

Connecticut Mountain Lion Struck By Car

A mountain lion was struck and killed by a car on a Connecticut highway Saturday morning (June 11). News reports say Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection officials believe it to be the same animal that was spotted in Greenwich, Connecticut earlier that week. The reports also mention that it is likely a captive animal that escaped or was released.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service declared the mountain lion extirpated from the East back in March. Captives roaming free and the occasional wild wanderer should keep the Internet humming for years to come.

See reports in the Hartford Courant, and NBC News.

Update: The Connecticut DEP press release.

Photo: Connecticut State Police/Ct. DEP