Wildlife collisions can be very dangerous for drivers and for animals.
Corinna Riginos is a conservation scientist at The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming studying wildlife collisions with ungulates like elk and golden eagles. The two are more closely related than you might think.
“When eagles are attracted to ungulate carcasses that have been hit by cars, that’s when they tend to get hit by cars themselves,” said Riginos.
The majority of these collisions occur during the winter when animals like eagles and elk are migrating.
“Wyoming is home to a really significant population of resident Golden Eagles and it’s also the southern end of a major migration corridor," said Riginos.
Riginos says protecting wildlife as well as drivers requires a few changes to existing roadways.
“The best way to mitigate is to create what’s called separated crossings. So opportunities for animals to cross either below the road surface through an underpass or above the road surface through an overpass. These are extremely effective you’ll see many of them in Utah as well as all over the west,” Riginos said.
“When you provide those animals with a place to cross and fence off the roadways in the adjacent area so they really have to cross at these crossing structures, it’s like 80-90 percent effective at reducing the number of animals that get killed on roads and it also provides some habitat connectivity in a safe way for animals to get across the road. The trouble is that it’s quite expensive.”
Despite the costs, altering animal movements may be more effective at reducing wildlife collisions than altering human behavior. In a separate study, researchers found that reducing night-time speed limits by 15 mph on roadways prompted drivers to reduce speeds by only 3-5 mph.
For more information on these studies, see link here.