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Experts Meet to Reduce Wildlife Collisions on CA Roads

Experts say California needs a lot more wildlife crossings such as this one to reduce the number of vehicle collisions and reconnect habitats fragmented by roads, advocates say. (Calif. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife)
Experts say California needs a lot more wildlife crossings such as this one to reduce the number of vehicle collisions and reconnect habitats fragmented by roads, advocates say. (Calif. Dept. of Fish and Wildlife)
January 8, 2020

REDDING, Calif. -- Collisions between vehicles and animals killed hundreds of thousands of animals and 12 people on California roads in 2017. Today, experts in transportation and wildlife management are at a summit in Redding to address the problem.

Wesley Stroud, Caltrans environmental office chief, said his agency and others are working to identify the best places to build overpasses and under-crossings for wildlife -- especially larger animals, such as bear and bighorn sheep -- that lead to larger crashes with more deaths, injuries and property damage.

"Elk, antelope and deer are kind of the big ones that we really need to focus on," he said, "because if you can get those animals to cross, you can make minor adjustments to those crossings to facilitate other, smaller animals to cross as well."

The symposium brings together local, state and federal agencies as well as conservation groups, to map out migration patterns and study problem areas where roads and water systems block species from migrating between their winter and summer ranges.

Stafford Lehr, a deputy director at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, praised the state's biodiversity initiative and said it's crucial to reconnect fragmented habitats so animal populations can thrive.

"Animals have been prevented from commingling," he said, "and we have seen dramatic population losses, loss of genetic diversity, because there's not a constant flow of new animals into or out of a population."

Researchers from the University of California at Davis also are studying roadkill patterns and, so far, the state has identified 15 known wildlife collision "hot spots." The idea is to address these concerns during the planning stages before new transportation projects and housing or commercial developments are built.

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Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA