Wolverine Research Featured on MSU Website

Black and white image of a wolverine walking through snowy forestMontana State University News Service published a feature story last week on Tony Clevenger’s wolverine research and also highlighted the story on the MSU website homepage.

“MSU research shows impact of major transportation corridor on wolverine movement” summarizes the findings from a multi-year study by Clevenger and his colleagues in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks.  Their research showed that interstate highways in the area limit the movements of female wolverines, causing isolation that can negatively impact the rare species’ population stability and growth.

The results from this research, which used noninvasive genetic sampling methods to collect wolverine DNA samples, were published in the journal Biological Conservation this summer.

The final report for the Mapping the Wolverine Way project is available on the WTI website.

NEW REPORT: Hot Spot Analysis of Large Mammal-Vehicle Collisions in California

Two deer crossing guard rail and road on Hwy 191 approaching Jackson Hole, WY.The final report is now available for a wildlife vehicle collision study conducted for the California Department of Transportation.  Road Ecology Research Ecologist Marcel Huijser and 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.

The report is available on the Hot Spot Analysis project page of the WTI website.

NEW PROJECT: Assessing the Costs and Benefits of an Animal Detection System

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.

Ongoing information about this project will be posted to the Animal Vehicle Collision Cost Analysis project page.

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.”