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  • Wildlife Highway Crossing: Where, How and Why?

    Published September 17th 2018 at 12:04pm

    A radio caller in Fargo, North Dakota once  baffled the show hosts  by calling in to complain about the placement of the deer crossing signs on her driving route. The woman was upset that deer crossing signs had been placed in such dangerous areas. "Why are we encouraging deer to cross at the interstate? I don't get it. That's a high- traffic area," she said. Her suggestion? Put the signs at school crossings so the would cross in a safer location. 

    What was almost certainly a prank call points to an interesting real-life dilemma. How can we manage animal crossings safely? After all, these signs are not for animals to discover safe passage, but for human drivers to increase their awareness in the hopes of avoiding damaging (and potentially deadly) crashes. A deer isn't going to read a sign, but there are other ways to encourage safer crossing locations.

    To get to the heart of the solution, we have to start with the well-known question: why did the deer cross the road? It turns out that highways crisscross through some  important habitats , and animals are going to cross them in order to meet their biological needs.   

    While we can't tell the deer where to cross with a sign, there are some steps humans can take to decrease the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions. Through the use of fences to deter travel, signs to increase driver awareness, and structures built to encourage safe passage under roadways instead of across them, the Utah Division of Wildlife Services (UDWS) and the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) hopes to make a difference. 

    Interestingly, wildlife can get pretty picky about what pathways they'll travel. UDOT  conducted research  to determine what kinds of structures would be most successful in redirecting animal traffic. They found that mule deer would use culverts to cross under roadways as long as the culverts were wide and short. If a culvert was too narrow or too long, the deer would not use it, probably because it was perceived as too dangerous. In addition, the use of deterrent fencing increased the attractiveness of culvert crossing options. 

    Using data like this, UDOT can make conscious, meaningful choices about where to build additional animal crossing structures and where to place signage in order to make motorists aware of increased risks. 

    Understanding these important highway safety decisions is a key part of  careers  in highway construction and management as well as in truck driving. The most important thing you will need to do is pass the testing. That is where we can help. We can provide you with the necessary resources to succeed at your testing and send you on your way to a successful career in construction. If you have any further questions on how we can help, please  contact us  today.


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