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.

New Project: Phase 2 Planned for New WVC Data Collection System

Project logo with graphic image of deer leaping across highway and title Federal ROaDSThe National Park Service (NPS) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have partnered with the Western Transportation Institute – Montana State University (WTI) to develop a federal lands wildlife-vehicle collision (WVC) data collection system. This system is being designed to efficiently and effectively collect information on large animal – vehicle crashes, to address motorist safety concerns on federal land management agency (FLMA) roads, as well as carcass data of medium- and smaller-sized fauna relevant to FLMAs’ conservation missions. This project offers user-friendly tools to collect and manage data key for analyses identifying specific areas where measures may be used to reduce WVCs on roads in National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges.

Phase 1 of the project entailed developing “ROaDS” (Roadkill Observation and Data System) as a mobile device application (an “app” for smart phones and tablets) for collecting WVC data in the field.  In this Phase 2 project, the research team will continue development of the application, by developing data standards and refining the data collection fields that will be incorporated into the next version of the app.  The final system will help agencies identify and monitor locations where wildlife vehicle collisions occur, and facilitate the planning and implementation of transportation, conservation, and safety efforts on federal lands.

Project Title and Webpage: Federal Lands Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Data Coordination Project Phase 2

New Publication: Study Estimates Costs of Animal-Vehicle Collisions in Brazil

Animal-vehicle collisions (AVCs) are a threat to both humans and wildlife, and they have an economic cost to society. PLOS ONE has published a study by WTI researcher Marcel Huijser and his international research partners that documents the impacts of AVCs in São Paulo State, Brazil.  Based on the findings, the research team estimates that there are 2611 AVCs each year, and more than 18% of them result in human injuries or fatalities. The total annual cost to society is approximately $25 million. The study also includes policy and management recommendations for reducing AVCs and enhancing safety.

 

Citation: Abra F.D., B.M. Granziera, M.P. Huijser, K.M.P.M.d.B. Ferraz, C.M. Haddad, R.M. Paolino. 2019. Pay or prevent? Human safety, costs to society and legal perspectives on animal-vehicle collisions in São Paulo state, Brazil. PLoSONE 14(4):e0215152. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0215152

New Report: National Key Deer Refuge – Strategies for Reducing Wildlife Vehicle Collisions

WTI has released a new report investigating Key Deer mortality along a segment of Highway 1 within the National Key Deer Refuge in Florida. Road Ecologists Marcel Huijser and James Begley found that 75% of all reported mortalities in this area were related to collisions with vehicles.  The team also investigated and mapped how the locations of collision “hotspots” have changed since the installation of wildlife fencing, underpasses, and deer guards. The final report (“Exploration of opportunities to reduce Key Deer Mortality along US Highway 1 and other roads, National Key Deer Refuge, Florida, USA”) summarizes the pros and cons of eight different strategies aimed at reducing collisions with Key Deer on Highway 1.

The National Key Deer Refuge final report is now available on the WTI website.  This research effort is part of a technical support contract for National Wildlife Refuges, which encompasses projects at refuges across the country.

Matt Bell Competes in Finals of Three Minute Thesis Competition

Collage of photos showing Matt Bell making presentation on wildlife collision models before an audienceFinal 7! On Friday, March 1, the MSU College of Engineering hosted the finals of its Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition. Road Ecology Graduate Student Matt Bell was one of seven finalists vying for best presentation of their thesis research in only 180 seconds, using only one slide.  Matt’s presentation, “Modeling Risk of Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions,” focuses on his research with mentor Dr. Yiyi Wang to develop a real-time risk model that alerts drivers of areas with higher risk of collisions with large animals.

Three Minute Thesis is a research communication competition developed by the University of Queensland in Australia (www.threeminutethesis.org). It encourages graduate students to develop their presentation skills and learn how to explain complex concepts to general audiences.  More than 200 universities in the U.S. now participate.

New Report: Wildlife Mitigation Measures for Refuges in Chesapeake Bay

Bridge and causeway through Chicoteague Bay, Chincoteague Island, Virginia, USAWTI Road Ecologists Marcel Huijser and James Begley have completed recommendations for reducing wildlife road mortalities on highways that serve two national wildlife refuges along the coast of Virginia.  “Exploration of Wildlife Mitigation Measures for the Roads through and around Fisherman Island and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuges in Virginia,” now available on the WTI website, includes specific recommendations for enhancing barriers, culverts, fencing and other methods to reduce vehicle collisions with several species of concern, including the diamondback terrapin (turtle) and the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel.