The WTI Road Ecology program, in partnership with the MSU Gianforte School of Computing, has completed a second phase of research on a system to simplify how wildlife vehicle collision (WVC) data is collected and shared among federal agencies.
The research program is sponsored by the National Center for Rural Road Safety, the National Park Service (NPS) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) – the federal agencies want to develop and coordinate the use of a WVC Data Collection System with other federal land management agencies, state and local agencies, and other organizations. During Phase 1, Road Ecology researchers Rob Ament, Matthew Bell, and Kelley Hall, collaborating with MSU Computer Science professor Mike Wittie, developed a pilot WVC system called ROaDS – Roadkill Observation and Data System. It collects WVC roadkill observations and is available to all Department of Interior (DOI) agencies and bureaus.
During Phase 2, the research team developed recommendations for preliminary national standards for WVC data collection systems, which will promote collection and sharing of consistent data among agencies and partners. The team also made recommendations to modify the ROaDS survey (used for data collection) so it is shorter, easier to use, and more efficient. As part of the development process, team members determined that ROaDS can provide a valuable research function – it captures the observer’s route, how long it took to complete the route and each individual observation made while on that route. Phase 2 also included outreach activities, in which team members began to engage other agencies and organizations to jointly develop national standards for WVC data collection systems via meetings, presentations, and workshops at national conferences that will be continued in Phase 3.
One of the country’s leading newspapers consulted a WTI researcher and several of our road ecology publications for a national feature story on wildlife crossings. “Retrofitting busy highways to let wildlife travel safely, too” explored national and state initiatives to identify wildlife corridors and enhance crossing structures such as underpasses and overpasses. The Post interviewed Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament, who discussed the potential long-term genetic consequences of highways that restrict wildlife movement and connectivity. The article also cites WTI/Montana Department of Transportation research on wildlife crossings on US 93 in Montana, and a cost-benefit analysis study that documented the direct and indirect costs of collisions with large animals.
The Jackson Hole News and Guide has published “Bridging a future for wildlife,” a feature article on proposed wildlife crossings structures for Wyoming highways. In the article, WTI Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament discusses how crossing structures can be highly effective in reducing collisions between vehicles and large mammals, especially if the locations are carefully sited and the structures are designed to meet the needs of the target species. WTI has conducted wildlife mitigation planning in Wyoming; Marcel Huijser, Rob Ament and the rest of the Road Ecology team collaborated on the development of the Teton County Wildlife Crossings Master Plan, completed in 2018.
The final report is now available for a wildlife vehicle collision study conducted for the California Department of Transportation. Road Ecology Research Ecologist Marcel Huijserand Research Associate James Begley authored the final report for “Large Mammal-Vehicle Collision Hot Spot Analysis,” which provides guidance on the implementation of mitigation measures aimed at reducing collisions with large wild mammals along all state managed highways in California, with an emphasis on mule deer. These analyses identified the road sections that had the “highest” concentration of deer-vehicle crashes and mule deer carcasses. The hot spots were prioritized based on parameters related to human safety, biological conservation, and economics. Finally, the researchers provided practical guidelines for the implementation of mitigation measures and suggest mitigation strategies for the highest-ranking hot spots in each Caltrans district.
WTI Road Ecologist Marcel Huijser will lead a cost-benefit analysis of an animal detection system (ADS) for the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT). MDT is considering a possible installation of an ADS along U.S. Highway 89, near Livingston, Montana. The analysis will investigate factors such as the number of wildlife vehicle collisions (WVCs) on the road segment; the costs associated with large animal WVCs; costs to purchase, install and maintain a system; and the life span and effectiveness of a system.
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.