EUGENE, Ore. — Hitting a deer with your car is bad news for everyone involved.
But when a road crosses an animal's habitat, the likelihood of run-ins with cars increases - for everything from deer and elk to frogs, turtles and birds.
“Roads can create dangerous barriers for many species of wildlife, because they often bisect migration paths and can separate breeding, feeding and other areas vital for animals’ survival,” said Simon Wray, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Biologist in Bend. “We think of deer and elk mortality because it is so visible, but many wildlife species die on the road every day.”
State agencies involved in wildlife and transportation are working on the issue.
For example, there's now an Oregon Department of Transportation interactive map which shows roads in the state that have the highest historic incidents of vehicle-wildlife collisions.
Biologits have also developed a map of "wildlife linkages," places where wildlife are known to cross Oregon’s roads. The map shows amphibian, reptile and small and large mammal crossings.
A handbook that describes planning and design strategies for wildlife crossings of roadways is available via Metro’s website, Wildlife crossings: Providing safe passage for urban wildlife.
Turtles, frogs, snakes: Give them a brake
More difficult to track are the little critters afoot on the roads in spring.
Ducks and geese are out and about with their strings of ducklings and goslings headed for water. On cool summer mornings, snakes make use of the heat-gathering properties of roads to warm themselves from the cool of the night.
In the evenings, they will again seek out pavement to soak up the last of the day’s warmth.
In May and June, female western painted and western pond turtles begin searching for suitable nesting grounds to lay their eggs, and sometimes the only way they can reach water or suitable habitat, is to cross a road.
“Stopping to help a turtle in the road is first a question of human safety,” said Susan Barnes, ODFW Conservation biologist. “If you can safely stop and get off the road, it is fine to pick the turtle up and carry it to the side of the road. Just make sure you place it in the direction it is headed. Otherwise, it will try to cross the road again.”