The problem of roadkill is one that is mounting, and scientists are looking at new, innovative approaches to curb the number of killings across the world. Across the U.S., vehicles hit an estimated one million to two million animals every year, the equivalent of a collision every 26 seconds, according to insurance industry records. However, those are just the reported incidents (usually those that involve large animals which wreak havoc on people’s cars) so if you factor in smaller animal collisions (like with a raccoon or a skunk) which are rarely reported, the number of incidents probably goes well up in the millions more. It has been reported that vehicle-animals collisions costs the United States a staggering $8 Billion a year.
Of course this problem isn’t restricted to the U.S. alone. An article from Spiegel entitled “Highway Slaughter: Germany’s New Anti Roadkill Offensive” is quoted saying:
“according to horrific statistics compiled by hunters, about 20 percent of the wildlife killed throughout Germany each year is so-called roadkill, dispatched by the radiator of a speeding car instead of a hunter’s gun.”
The question of how to go about successfully preventing or reducing roadkill is now becoming a major area of interest for public and biological health. Here are some of the recent innovations that have been developed in an effort to save wildlife.
Animal bridges are just that – bridges designed for animals to safely cross human-made barriers, like highways. Numerous studies have shown that the construction and use of roads is a direct source of habitat fragmentation. Highways can rip right through territories that animals need to make use of. These bridges allow them to safely cross our busy lanes with ease by connecting their habitats once again. Animal bridges are becoming increasingly common in Canada and the United States, particularly where large animals like moose and deer roam.
In Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada there are 24 vegetated overpasses which provide safe passage over the Trans-Canada Highway for bears, moose, deer, wolves, elk, and many other species.
And there’s the Ecoduct De Woeste Hoeve over the highway A50 in the Netherlands:
And the animal bridge near Keechelus Lake, Washington, USA:
And the many bridges on Christmas Island used for migratory Christmas Island Crabs…
Of course, these are only a small sampling of incredible animal bridges found throughout the world.
What goes up, most come down! Hence the need for animal tunnels, or ducts, that shuffle the creatures underneath busy roads or along the side of them.
For example, Henrey Street in Amherst, MA is home to a salamander crossing tunnel. Every spring hundreds of salamanders need to make their way to vernal pools to mate and lay eggs.
Then, in Davis, CA “Toad Hollow” was constructed so amphibians wouldn’t be squished crossing the highway. In 1995 the $14,000 wildlife crossing was built as a six-inch tunnel to allow frogs (not toads, despite the project’s name) to circumvent the newly constructed Pole Line Road overpass. The postmaster decorated the entrance to the tunnel near the Post Office to resemble a toad town, named Toad Hollow, complete with a toad bar, toad outhouse, and a toad hotel. In late 1999, the walkway at the northeast entrance to the Davis Food Co-op on G Street was named “Toad Lane” by the city council in honor of the tunnel. In January 2000, the children’s book, “The Toads of Davis,” written and illustrated by Ted Puntillo, Sr., was published to tell the story of the Davis Toad Tunnel through the eyes of the toads. (source)
And of course, those millions of migrating Christmas Island Crabs need to get around on the ground, as well.
This oddball solution to preventing and/or reducing roadkill was developed in Finland, where thousands of reindeer are killed on dark roads every year. Herders in Lapland have taken to spraying their reindeer with reflective paint to help drivers see them in the dark.
Solar-powered Alert Panels
Zerokill are Solar Powered panels that are supposed to line the highway and help reduce animal road-kills during nighttime driving. It works in two ways: there are infrared sensors built into the body of Zerokill and when they detect an animal within the vicinity, they beam out subtle blinking LED lights, so as to warn the oncoming motorist. For the second part of the process, it reflects the oncoming car’s headlights, illuminating the sideways, as a warning to the animals. This is actually still just a concept, but I think it has some real promise.
Learning from Locusts
Scientists are currently working with locusts to develop a computer system which could become a blueprint for highly-accurate collision sensors in cars. The locusts themselves have an early warning system called the neuron lobula giant movement detector (LGMD which helps them avoid colliding with each other when flying in swarms at high speed. Using this as a model, researchers are hopeful that a new sensor could be created that would significantly reduce car collisions.
So there you have it. Perhaps one of these (or several) could aid preventing or reducing roadkill entirely. Of course, researchers are always open to new alternatives, too, so if you have an idea why don’t you leave a comment below!