5-year roadkill effort tracks California's deadliest roads

Ellen Knickmeyer, ASSOCIATED PRESS

1. Interstate 5, the state’s major north-south corridor: Particularly deadly for owls and other birds of prey, for black bears living near Mount Shasta in Northern California, and for all wildlife on the Tejon Pass linking Central and Southern California.
2. State Route 17 between San Jose and Santa Cruz: Deadly for puma, bobcats, deer and other animals.
3. Interstate 280 in the San Francisco Bay Area: Bad for deer.
4. State Route 50 in the Sierra Nevada Mountain area: Lethal for several species.
5: State Route 101 through Northern California redwoods: Lethal to all forms of wildlife.
Worst highway carving up animal habitat: Interstate 80 across the Sierra Nevada.

Busy freeways running alongside park land and marshes make San Francisco Bay Area roads a “ring of death” for wildlife, according to a new statewide roadkill report that tracks the deadliest traffic spots for wildlife.
Fraser Shilling, co-director of the Road Ecology Center at the University of California-Davis, used 29,000 volunteer reports of wildlife roadkill over five years to map the most lethal areas for the state’s 680 native species of bobcats, barn owls, frogs and other vertebrates.
The idea is to identify stretches that need immediate action to try to protect wildlife — and to make clear the overall toll that California’s car culture is taking on native species, Shilling said.
“Just having all the roads and traffic we have is resulting in really big changes in the ecosystem,” Shilling said. “It’s getting worse as you see more traffic and more roads.”
Roadways — which kill not only by collisions with cars but by carving up habitat — are the third-biggest cause of wildlife death, and the biggest cause for some state species, like pumas, he said.
Besides Interstate 80 and California 101 in the Bay Area, where large numbers of wading birds and water birds die, top roadkill spots include San Diego County’s California Route 94, which runs through wildlife habitat, and Interstates 80 and 5 in the Sacramento area under the Pacific Flyway migratory bird route.
One way to lessen deaths is to avoid planting roadsides with berries, blooms or other plants that attract wildlife. Highway crossings for wildlife – land bridges are best, but tunnels are more common — help some species, he said.
California’s move toward such wildlife crossings is “really far too slow,” Shilling said. “We need a 10-year program of 10- to 20 structures a year.”
Read more via 5-year roadkill effort tracks California’s deadliest roads | The Press Democrat.

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