An interactive map shows how California's state highway system is strewn with roadkill "hot spots," which are identified in a newly released report by the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis. The data could help state highway planners take measures to protect both drivers and wildlife.
The report describes data logged into the California Roadkill Observation System, a volunteer-submitted database of instances where wildlife and vehicles collided over the past five years. Road Ecology Center co-director Fraser Shilling said it is the largest wildlife monitoring system in the state, featuring more than 29,000 observations of more than 390 of California's 680 native vertebrate species. The report's findings cover about 40 percent of the total state highway system.
The data can be seen in detail through the system's interactive map, which assigns different colored dots for various sizes of species. Clicking on the dots reveals the species -- striped skunk, mountain lion, black bear, gopher snake, desert iguana -- and where and when they were hit. Species can also be mapped individually. The public can submit entries, including photographs, to add to the map.
"These data help identify places where immediate action is warranted," said Shilling, who is also a research scientist with the UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy.
'Rings of death'
The hot spots are stretches of highway the center identified as statistically different from neighboring stretches, taking into account density of roadkill (number of animals killed per mile) and total wildlife-vehicle collisions observed on those highways.
Major hot spots include:
According to Caltrans and California Highway Patrol statistics, there are about 1,000 reported accidents each year on state highways involving deer, livestock and other wildlife. The UC Davis report is intended to help state highway transportation planners develop mitigation to protect driver and animal safety. Such actions could include building fencing and underpasses along priority highways to allow for wildlife's safe passage.
Drought may increase roadkill
The roadkill observations have led to additional insights, which Shilling said require further research:
"You have a sterile, dangerous place -- the roadway," Shilling said. "You don't want to attract animals there."
Interactive map: http://www.wildlifecrossing.net/california/map/roadkill
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