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New wildlife crossings in western U.S. designed to save animals’ lives

Wildlife researchers have learned that deer and other animals that dart into the road are driven by an ancient instinct to follow migratory paths in existence long before automobiles were introduced.

JEAN LOTUS: ‘More wildlife overpasses and underpasses are coming to highways in the western United States, thanks to a better understanding of migration corridors boosted by GPS collar technology. Utilizing now-affordable tracking collars, wildlife researchers have learned that deer and other animals that dart into the road are driven by an ancient instinct to follow migratory paths in existence long before automobiles were introduced…

Between 1 million and 2 million vehicle collisions with large animals occur every year in the United States, according to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. Those collisions cause almost 30,000 injuries and about 200 deaths a year — and billions of dollars in auto repair costs…

A meeting last summer of the Western Governors Association brought new focus on migratory corridors and how to create more wildlife crossings. Additional crossings to help protect animals are planned in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Oregon and California.

States are seeking more money for wildlife crossings from highway funds via the federal Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, which expires this year. They say the need is great, and they cite the danger to both motorists and animals from sudden, unexpected collisions… Keeping wildlife corridors connected gives animals a better chance of species survival, said Matt Skroch, a Portland, Ore.-based manager for the Pew Charitable Trusts…

Radio collars can transmit for several years, and will detach and fall off when batteries die, migratory biologist Jill Randall said. Collars cost about $500 each, plus data fees. Some grant money for migration projects have been available from the U.S. Department of Interior, Randall said… Animals pay no mind to human boundaries or whether land is owned by federal, state or private parties, and that can conflict with human uses of the land, Randall said’.  SOURCE…

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