High Country News Interviews WTI Road Ecologist

The Idaho Transportation Department is currently considering wildlife crossing structures for a segment of U.S. 20 near Island Park.  High Country News recently published an extensive feature article exploring both support and opposition to this proposal: “When wildlife safety turns into fierce political debate.”  WTI Road Ecologist Marcel Huijser was interviewed for the article, discussing the potential role and effectiveness of animal detection systems.  The article also cites his research on the costs to society of vehicle crashes with deer and other large mammals.

New Publications from Road Ecology

two deer crossing a two-lane highway through a forestInterested in Road Ecology research? Check out these recent and upcoming publications.

WOLVERINE TRAPPING: The Journal of Wildlife Management has published “The Sustainability of Wolverine Trapping Mortality in Southern Canada,” by Garth Mowat, Tony Clevenger, and their research team. It summarizes the team’s research study, in which they observed wolverines over a large area of southern British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, used spatial capture‐recapture models to estimate density, and calculated trapping kill rates using provincial fur harvest data. The study was also highlighted in a December feature story by the Wildlife Society: “Are southwest Canada wolverines being overharvested?

Citation: Mowat, G., Clevenger, A.P., Kortello, A.D., Hausleitner, D., Barrueto, M., Smit, L., Lamb, C., DorsEy, B. and Ott, P.K. (2019), The Sustainability of Wolverine Trapping Mortality in Southern Canada. Jour. Wild. Mgmt.. doi:10.1002/jwmg.21787

EFFECTS OF ROADS IN LATIN AMERICA. In 2020, the Environmental Impact Assessment Review will publish “Effects of Roads on Terrestrial Vertebrate Species in Latin America,” co-authored by Tony Clevenger.  It summarizes a review to qualitatively and quantitatively assess scientific research papers addressing road impacts on vertebrate species in Latin America. The paper also summarizes research gaps and recommends an approach for future research.

Citation: Pinto, F., Clevenger, A., and Grilo, C. (2020). Effects of Roads on Terrestrial Vertebrate Species in Latin America. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 81 (2020) 106337.

NIGHT-TIME SPEED LIMITS: The National Transportation Research Database (TRID) has posted the final report for the project “Effectiveness of Night-time Speed Limit Reduction in Reducing Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions.” For this project, Research Scientist Marcel Huijser and his partners investigated the effects of speed limit reductions at mule deer collision hotspots in Wyoming. The researchers studied the effects of the speed limits on vehicle speeds, on the interactions between wildlife and vehicles, and on the number of observed collisions.

Citation:  Riginos, C., Fairbank, E. Hansen, J. Kolek & M. Huijser. 2019. Effectiveness of night-time speed limit reduction in reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions. Report No. FHWA-WY-1904F. Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative, Jackson / The Nature Conservancy, Lander, Wyoming, USA. https://trid.trb.org/view/1659707

Wildlife Vehicle Collision Data Collection System: Second phase of development complete

Project logo with graphic image of deer leaping across highway and title Federal ROaDSThe 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.

The Federal Lands Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Data Coordination Project Phase 2 report is available on the WTI website.  A new poster, which displays highlights from Phases 1 and 2 and proposed activities for Phase 3, is also available at the WVC Data Coordination Project Phase 2 webpage.

Ament Interviewed on Wildlife Crossing Structures in Wyoming

Head shot of Rob AmentThe 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.

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.

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.

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.

National Geographic Interviews WTI Road Ecologists for Feature Article

WTI’s decades of research on wildlife crossing structures received a very prestigious “shout out” last week – a feature article by National Geographic. “How wildlife bridges over highways make animals—and people—safer” describes how these structures have led to major reductions in the number of collisions between animals and vehicles, specifically mentioning the structures in Banff National Park, which WTI Road Ecologist Tony Clevenger has studied for more than 17 years.  The article also cites WTI’s key 2009 study that documented the specific costs of wildlife-vehicle collisions and the cost effectiveness of mitigation options, which was led by Marcel Huijser.  Both Tony and Road Ecology Program Manager Rob Ament were interviewed and quoted in the article.