Have you seen any dead animals by the roadside lately? Chances are you just answered “yes.”
In the United States, there is no federally-organized system of reporting animals killed by traffic. The HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) estimates one million animals are killed by traffic daily in this country.
The New York Times reports the University of California-Davis has started keeping records of animals found dead on roadways. The big difference: the use of community citizens for reporting.
Staffed by over 360 volunteers who drive around, take photographs of dead animals hit by traffic, and mark GPS coordinates, they identify the species and then upload the information to UCD. The purpose: “…to measure and reduce the impacts to wildlife from human activity.” Road ecology seeks to understand the evolutionary consequences of plant and animal ecosystems fragmented by roadways.
By discovering where and why animals attempt to cross a road, statistical systems for prediction of roadkill hotspots can be centralized and available. It will help form managerial and financial policy about wildlife habitat and interaction with humans. This will assist in implementing more appropriate warning signage on current and future roadways. More importantly, it should help reduce the amount of animal-vehicle collisions.
The California Roadkill Observation System website is trying to have a Smartphone app designed to enlist the younger demographic with the project. With a built-in GPS function, the Smartphone would provide more accurate location detail to the database.
Raccoons, skunks, squirrels and opossum are among the most commonly discovered animal-automobile fatalities in California, followed by deer. This may be a gruesome subject — who doesn’t cringe when avoiding roadkill? But, as with any other unpleasant subject matter, it is important to face the cold, hard truth. Without recognition and dialogue, change will never occur.
UCD has started a sister website for the state of Maine — Maine Audubon Wildlife Road Watch. The difference being, Maine volunteers are also recording live, injured animals in their reports.
There is no doubt as the human population continues to grow, wildlife is further impinged upon for open areas. If you are disturbed by the visions of so many wild animal carcasses on the roadways in your community, why not consider forming a site in your state?
UCD can assist you in that endeavor. Contact co-directors Alison M. Berry at (530) 752-7683 or firstname.lastname@example.org and Fraser Shilling at (530) 752-7859 or email@example.com.
Flickr: Kevin Saff