New Tool Helps Find Best Location for Fences to Reduce Wildlife Roadkill

by Jon D. B.
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The Society for Conservation Biology has come up with an ingenious system of tools they believe will drastically reduce wildlife fatalities – i.e., roadkill.

As any motorist who’s been in a collision with wildlife will tell you, it is a brutal event. Tragically, dozens of drivers perish in roadkill incidents each year. Further, millions upon millions of wildlife die annually from road & vehicle collisions.

In order to address this threat for both humans and wildlife head-on, The Society for Conservation Biology has devised an ingenious system to help quell such catastrophes before they start.

“Roadkill Hotspots” Are Key to Solving Wildlife – Vehicle Collisions

According to TSCB, fencing entire swatches of wilderness from breaching roadways is not realistic – or effective. So how do they plan to help locales address significant roadkill issues?

“We determined how transportation agencies might prioritize road sections for fencing by using mortality surveys,” TSCB’s Beth Daley writes for The Conversation. Within their research, Daley says “identifying roadkill hot spots at multiple scales and planning mitigation measures in a methodical way” is the key.

“Roadkill hot spots [are identified] at different scales, Daley adds. This “can influence decisions about where fences should be… A hot spot at one scale may not be a hot spot at another scale.”

All findings, however, are meaningless without the data to back it up. And this is where Daley’s plan excels.

“We used roadkill data from three roads, one from southern Québec and two from Rio Grande do Sul, in Brazil,” she says. “The first road cuts through the Laurentides Wildlife Reserve and borders the Jacques-Cartier National Park in Québec. One of the roads in Brazil crosses through two protected areas and runs along the Atlantic Forest Biosphere Reserve. The other borders slopes of the Serra Geral Mountains and coastal lagoons.”

Initially, Daley and her colleagues thought that many sections of short fences could be “built near hot spots identified at a fine-scale to reduce roadkill.” This plan, though, hinges on the expectation that such an approach requires less fencing of local governments.

This, however, proved futile. “Animals can move easily around fences that are too short,” Daley finds in her research. “They may then [perish] at the fence ends — an issue known as the “fence-end effect.” The fences need to be long enough to reduce the danger of a fence-end effect.”

What Fences are Key for Animal & Driver Survival?

As a result – for Daley – the answer lies in where each length & height of fence placing. Each, in turn, would be made directly for species’ height. As a result, local species and the “hotspot danger” they create should decrease drastically.

“Finding the right balance depends on the distances that animals move, their behaviour at the fence, the mortality reduction targets for each species considered and the structure of the landscape near the road,” Daley clarifies.

“For example,” she continues, “turtles move across much shorter distances than lynx, and their roadkill hot spots are very localized. Accordingly, many short fences are appropriate for turtles, whereas fences designed for lynx need to be much longer.”

Moreover, once these fences are installed, Daley says hotspots may shift or disappear altogether. To deal with this, she says local officials must be able to adapt. As a result, adaptable fencing is key.

How does Daley plan to navigate this challenge? “Our step-by-step plan helps transportation managers decide where to place fences, and whether they should be long or short,” she says. If anything, it is a major step in the right direction.

“Fencing has been shown to be effective and is the most realistic way to decrease roadkill,” Daley concludes. “Wildlife conservationists and transportation agencies should install fences more actively than wildlife passages to reduce the effect of roads and traffic on wildlife populations. Fences also increase traffic safety for drivers.”

This duality is, in short, a win-win for populated areas and their animal neighbors.

And in urban areas where casualties are high both ways, the need for such systems is “more urgent than ever.”

All of this will be music to wildlife officials’ ears. Many, such as these brave Utah officers, would relish in the reduction of dangerous encounters with wild animals.

[H/T The Conversation]

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