Funding the War on Roadkills
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2002:
BOZEMAN, Montana–The $59.6 billion U.S. Department of
Transportation appropriation signed by President George W. Bush in
December 2001 included $500,000 for an anti-roadkill project under
study by the Western Transportation Institute, a program of the
College of Engineering at Montana State University in Bozeman.
That aspect of the bill appears to have been reported only by
Bob Anez, of Associated Press, who promptly interviewed WTI
research engineer Pat McGowan.
McGowan told Anez that the WTI hopes to adapt motion
detectors used to enhance perimeter security around military bases to
set off flashing highway lights whenever large animals such as bears,
bison, deer, elk, moose, or wolves enter the roadway at common
The lights would blink for three minutes, believed to be the
maximum time that these species linger in or near traffic lanes. A
variety of different motion-detecting devices are under study,
including infrared sensors, microwave radar, seismographs, and
McGowan intends to start testing the equipment by May or June
2002, he told Anez, along a stretch of Montana state route 1991,
the Gallatin Gateway Highway, which dips briefly into Yellowstone
National Park. Sharp bends, high cliffs on the east side and steep
drops on the west, and hypnotic patterns of light and shadow created
by the angles of summer sunlight through foliage combine with
frequent wildlife crossings to make the narrow two-lane highway
reputedly one of the most dangerous in the whole U.S.
The WTI work is also partially funded by 11 state
transportation departments. Animal/car collisions cause an estimated
half million vehicular crashes per year in the U.S.; deer/car
collisions alone kill more than 100 people per year, on average.
Data gathered by the Dr. Splatt Project coordinated by
Brewster Bartlett of Pinkerton Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire,
and the Strah Poll, by Cathy Strah of the department of transport in
Mentor, Ohio, indicates that the wildlife toll among species easily
seen from moving vehicles or commonly removed from roadways averages
close to 150 million per year.
Relative to the numbers of drivers, vehicles, miles
traveled, and estimated wildlife populations, roadkills appear to
have declined steadily since the Dr. Splatt Project, in particular,
began making roadkill prevention a frequent topic of mainstream news
media mentions in 1992-1993.
The debut of the Dr. Splatt Project, initially funded by the
National Science Foundation, coincided with rising awareness among
insurers that animals in the road rank second only to drunk driving
as a cause of single-car accidents, and among species
conservationists that cars are the leading cause of death among many
rare animals, ranging from Blanding’s turtle to the Florida panther.
This in turn has elevated roadkill prevention as a concern of