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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
The 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
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