SciSun: Double Crossed   Leave a comment

Last week we talked about why animals cross roads; and it seems, often they don’t have any choice. Because of migration, species behavior, and just in living their day-to-day lives, wildlife must cross roads; along with avoiding shopping malls, and office developments, and parking lots, and most everything else humans have built into the world. Unfortunately, something as simple as crossing from one place to another is a life-or-death risk that too often ends in, literally, the End.

Every day it’s estimated 1,000,000 animals are killed while crossing or even approaching U.S. roads and highways. That’s ONE MILLION. Per DAY. Plus (well, there’s no ‘plus’ about this), each year this totals to more than $8 billion dollars in damage to cars and property; and hundreds of people injured or killed.

From snakes, frogs and other reptiles and amphibians; to birds, both flying and walking; to raccoons, coyotes, bears, and virtually any and all types of wildlife, no species is safe. Threatened and Endangered animals are protected in the wilderness, but not on highways: Every year, almost 10% of the entire surviving number of the extremely rare and endangered Florida Panther (Puma concolor) are found dead by the side of the road.

Even the isolated population of rare Pacific Fisher (Martes pennanti) living in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains, near Yosemite National Park, is in continual danger and many have been killed – scientists know of at least nine – while trying to cross highways. The total number of fishers in this small, but ecologically important group is estimated at only 300, so the loss of any one makes a significant impact on the total population, and even survival of an entire species. Fishers are one of the predators that control an over-abundance of fast-reproducing and always hungry forest wildlife; so without this species doing its job, the numbers of squirrels and mice and other small animals could quickly go out of balance, leading to overpopulation and extreme environmental consequences.

Scientists are researchers are studying how to protect the fisher, and other wildlife, from cars and trucks. Already it’s been discovered a few fishers have learned that stormwater culverts, located under roads, are a safe way to cross. Fishers probably don’t spread this news among themselves (not without Twitter or Facebook, at least. You know how hard it is to get reception in the mountains), but work is underway to create inviting pathways and access for fishers and other Sierra wildlife in safe corridors beneath the pavement.

“Come'on guys, this way!  Sure it's safe, I'm keeping a lookout.”

“Come’on guys, this way! Sure it’s safe, I’m keeping a lookout.”

In other areas also, projects and ideas are being tested, or have already been established, that will allow wildlife to continue their travels yet be safe and away from busy roads and highways. Tunnels; over-and under-passes; bridges; fences that force the animals to follow one safe path; and even electronic sensors that warn drivers of approaching animals have all proven effective, and wildlife seem responsive to the help; in some areas reports of animal accidents have been reduced from hundreds a week with no crossings; to twenty percent, or lower, numbers of collisions once protected pathways were provided. While it will probably take millions of dollars, and many years, to build and change our roads so they are safe not only for humans in our cars, but for wildlife on their journeys, we can all work toward a future where animal and people can each enjoy our adventures, and none of us will be double crossed.


Michonne Says: Animals being hurt is very sad. I don’t want to think about it. I’m going to go underground and hide now and hope I don’t have bad dreams.

Posted August 4, 2013 by ECOVIA eco-adventure® in SciSun

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