Research Update – Are Wyoming Deer and Antelope Using Existing Underpasses to Cross Highways?

WTI is conducting a research on behalf of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) and the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) to explore mitigation options for reducing wildlife vehicle collisions along Interstate 25 in central Wyoming.  WYDOT and WGFD would like to explore the possibility of funneling large mammals, particularly mule deer and pronghorn, through the existing underpasses on this section of road rather than building new ones specifically designed for wildlife.

As one of the research steps, project researchers Marcel Huijser, Amanda Warren, and Elizabeth Fairbank collected preliminary data on wildlife use of existing structures under I-25 which were not originally designed for wildlife. Based on an eight-month monitoring effort in 2018-2019, the research team found that the structures are predominantly used by mule deer and white-tailed deer, but almost never by pronghorn.  More details are available in the interim report (“Preliminary Data on Wildlife Use of Existing Structures along I-25, Kaycee, Wyoming, USA”), which was recently published and is available on the project page of the WTI website.

New Publication: How do wildlife fencing and crossing structures affect small mammals?

While wildlife fencing and crossing structures have been shown to reduce the effect of roads on medium and large animals, less is known about how these structures affect the movements of small mammals.  The Canadian Journal of Zoology has published “Factors affecting the permeability of road mitigation measures to the movement of small mammals,” an article by Adam Ford and WTI Research Scientist Tony Clevenger, based on research they conducted on four small mammal species along the Trans-Canada Highway Corridor in Banff National Park.  The article includes recommendations for culvert design and maintenance to promote usage of these structures by small mammal species to cross highways.

Citation: Ford, Adam T. and Clevenger, Anthony P. Factors affecting the permeability of road mitigation measures to the movement of small mammals. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 2019, 97(4): 379-384, https://doi.org/10.1139/cjz-2018-0165

MDT Launches Wildlife and Transportation Webpage

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) has a new webpage dedicated to facilitating collaboration among the many partners working to reduce animal vehicle collisions and enhance wildlife connectivity.

In December 2018, the Montana Wildlife & Transportation Summit (Summit) was held at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. It was co-convened by the Montana Governor’s office, Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), Western Transportation Institute (WTI), and Montanans for Safe Wildlife Passage (MSWP). The purpose of the Summit was to bring stakeholders together to strengthen working relationships and share information.  The long-term goal is to develop strategies to plan and implement wildlife accommodations, reduce animal-vehicle collisions, and protect wildlife and their movement across state highways. The emphasis of this first meeting was to build common ground among stakeholders around wildlife and transportation issues in order to build a foundation to engage additional stakeholders and partner on collaborative initiatives.

To encourage and promote future engagement, MDT has created the “Montana Wildlife and Transportation” webpage. It provides more information about the Summit, including presentations by WTI researchers Marcel Huijser and Rob Ament, and a link to the Montana Wildlife and Transportation Summit Final Report.  It will also provide updates on the ongoing activities of the Summit partners, such as committee meetings, guiding documents, and informational resources.

Online and On the Radio: Road Ecologists Interviewed on Wildlife Crossings

The business website Quartz (www.qz.com) has published a feature article on the international use of wildlife crossing structures.  “Wildlife overpasses that protect animals are spreading globally” discusses WTI Road Ecologist Tony Clevenger’s findings on the types of crossings preferred by different species of animals, based on his research on the Trans-Canada Highway.  It also mentions Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament’s efforts to help countries like Bhutan to start using wildlife crossings to protect species like Asian elephants.

Interested in hearing Tony Clevenger speak on wildlife overpasses in more detail?  Check out his radio interview from last week with Marcus Smith on BYU radio, entitled “Highway overpasses paved with grass, rocks and trees save lives.”

NEW PUBLICATION: Idaho Barn Owl Study Explores High Rates of Road Mortality

Ibis, an international journal of avian science, has published an article based on a WTI Road Ecology project in Idaho.  “Spatial, road geometric and biotic factors associated with Barn Owl mortality along an interstate highway” studied the high rates of collisions between Barn Owls and vehicles on Interstate 84 in Southern Idaho.  It stems from a WTI project on potential mitigation options for reducing vehicle collisions with barn owls, which was a collaborative research effort among WTI, Boise State University, Murdock Charitable Trust, Federal Highway Administration, Idaho Transportation Department and Idaho EPSCoR.  Angela Kociolek served as the Principal Investigator.

Citation: Arnold, E. M., Hanser, S. E., Regan, T. , Thompson, J. , Lowe, M. , Kociolek, A. and Belthoff, J. R. (2019), Spatial, road geometric and biotic factors associated with Barn Owl mortality along an interstate highway. Ibis, 161: 147-161. doi:10.1111/ibi.12593

WTI Wildlife Crossings Projects featured in Smokies Life

Smokies Life, the magazine of the Great Smoky Mountains Association, has published a pictorial feature and in-depth article on wildlife collisions. “Right of Way: Roads Need Overhaul to Decrease Collisions” includes an interview with WTI Road Ecologist Marcel Huijser about his 20 years of research on the effectiveness of wildlife crossing structures.  The article also features a number of Marcel’s personal photos from the U.S. 93 wildlife crossings project in Montana.