Understanding Behavioral Responses of Wildlife to Traffic to Improve Mitigation Planning

Creating and maintaining sustainable transportation systems depends in part on understanding and mitigating ecological impacts. Wildlife crossing structures (WCS) are often used to mitigate impacts on wildlife populations. WCS and existing structures may provide passage for multiple species, depending on their sensitivity to traffic disturbance and perception of the roadway. In a previous project, the research team found that traffic conditions and traffic noise could reduce WCS effectiveness in facilitating passage of diverse and sensitive species. In the current project, they expanded the geographic scope to 26 sites throughout California, including detailed measurements of vehicle noise and lighting impacts on wildlife use of structures. They investigated individual animal behavior as the animals approached structures as a possible mechanism for reducing species diversity due to traffic disturbance. In order to inform future WCS planning, placement and construction, the team studied traffic noise and light impacts on wildlife in the vicinity of the proposed Liberty Canyon wildlife over-crossing (over US 101), the first and largest of its kind in California. They improved a preliminary statistical model of the effects of traffic on WCS use of existing structures. The authors recommend strategies for transportation agencies to use in developing and modifying WCS to improve wildlife passage.