Road Ecology and Highway Safety
Animal-vehicle collisions are a growing safety, socio-economic, and ecological concern as people put growing numbers of vehicles in operation, drive more miles, and build roads that encroach ever deeper into formerly isolated wildlife habitat. More than 1 million deer-vehicle collisions alone occur each year in the United States, killing more than 200 people, injuring another 29,000, and causing $1.1 billion in vehicle damage. On the other hand, wildlife deaths caused by vehicle collisions can threaten the long-term survival of some wildlife populations and thus impact the integrity of entire ecosystems. After decades of ignoring the impacts of highways on wildlife, transportation and natural resource agencies have begun addressing such “road ecology” issues. Numerous measures to reduce animal-vehicle collisions have been tried with varying degrees of success, but the only real solution has been to keep animals off the highway surface and out of the path of vehicles. The most promising method is to use wildlife fencing in combination with wildlife passages, which keep animals off the road but allow them access to habitat on both sides. These safe crossings can reduce animal-vehicle collisions by 80-90 percent and also reduce the habitat fragmentation created by roads and other human barriers to wildlife movement.
Our wildlife fencing on I-90 between Bozeman and Livingston, Montana is proving successful in increasing highway safety, reducing roadkill and guiding species to underpasses and culverts in order to safely traverse the road. We are now exploring options with the Montana Department of Transportation to implement this strategy in other regions of the state.