On the Road for Wildlife

Reducing Roadway Threats to Endangered Wildlife

You probably remember the fable “The Tortoise and the Hare,” in which the turtle beats the rabbit in a race to the finish line. Sadly, a modern version of the tale might not have such a cheerful ending—in fact, if this contest was held today on a road in Southern Maine (or most other places), it’s likely that neither would survive. Wildlife road mortality is at an all-time high.

While roads account for only 1-2 percent of the land area in the United States, they are one of the largest threats to wildlife. The Blanding’s turtle is particularly vulnerable to being killed by vehicles. The New England cottontail may not even be attempting to cross roads resulting in smaller and smaller populations that may soon blink out. Both are candidates for the federal endangered species list. Unless something is done now to reverse road mortality, Blanding’s and spotted turtles are predicted to go extinct in Maine in the near future.

With Innovation Grant funding, Maine Audubon and its partners led a groundbreaking project bringing together innovative technology, local communities, and transportation professionals to conserve endangered wildlife in southern Maine that are at risk of extinction because of roads. The group launched a new citizen science project to engage new audiences and utilize the Maine Audubon Wildlife Road Watch, an interactive website for Maine citizens to report wildlife on roads.

Maine Audubon involved the community in identifying high priority wildlife road crossings for endangered species and then developed solutions in those places that prevent road mortality such as signs alerting motorists to vulnerable wildlife, fences to keep wildlife off particularly dangerous stretches of roads, and structures like culverts and bridges that allow wildlife to cross roads safely. The project developed a promising and potentially national model for community action to help make transportation planning wildlife-friendly.

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