Friday, October 19, 2012

Please Move the Deer Crossing - Road Ecology

I was attacked by a deer once.  I was volunteering at a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center which was very understaffed.  It relied on volunteers, and, well, the lady who ran it wasn't very nice, and she would run the volunteers off.  So the problem was there were tons of animals and very few volunteers.  She had wild animals not just on her acres and acres of land, but also running around in her house.  There was a young lion in there.  And some other really cute miniature deer-like creature that she kept crated like a dog when she was out.  He looked like a Min Pin with antlers. 

So sometimes the animals hadn't been fed regularly, and they would be really hungry.  There was an enormous deer pen in the woods that we would have to enter to feed the deer, and one very hungry buck could not wait for me to pour out the bucket of food.  So he reared up on his hind legs and gave me quite a beating with his hooves.  His blows landed on the back of one arm and shoulder, and I am really lucky he didn't hit my head.

Bambi he was not.  I got a lecture the next time I saw my vet about wild animals, but after my beating I needed no convincing.  They can be dangerous.  I drove home from my beating that day and for the first time I saw a hunter's deer tied to the back of his car and I didn't get all mushy.  I thought, "Dang, I know now you were no Bambi. "

Anyway, this audio is kind of funny, but it's kind of not. It's a phonecall to a North Dakota radio show where the woman calling was under the impression that the deer crossing signs on the interstates and highways were there for the deer and not the drivers:

I'm posting it because it is kind of humorous, but also because I believe animals and people being killed by cars in the roads is a problem we can find a solution for, and I just want to send out a little inspiration. Who knows? Maybe you know somebody who designs cars, or designs roads, and you can get them to thinking. I would at least like to get the conversation started. I believe people are endlessly creative and I don't believe we have to settle for solutions that only benefit animals or only benefit people. I think we can come up with something that can benefit us both. Call me an idealist.

I had a friend back in Art School who used to say we should make cars out of nerf ball material (NERF = Non-Expanding Recreational Foam). Then we could just bounce off eachother when we collided. I thought that was a pretty cool idea. Nerf Balls came out when I was a kid and they were designed with the idea that kids could throw a ball in their Mom's house without worry of breaking her valuables, or outside without worry of breaking your neighbor's window.

But I think the real problems for small animals is the tires.

Yesterday, walking Muji, I saw two cats who had been killed by cars. And these were on dirt roads back in the farmland behind our house. One was just a kitten. These were not busy roads, but sometimes that is even more dangerous for the cats, because they will sit in the middle of them with a false sense of safety, not realizing a speeding farmer may come barrelling down them. So check this out. I did a search for "making roads safer for animals and people" and this came up. Road Ecology: Making Roads Safer for Animals and Humans.

Road Ecology?  Who knew?

Check this out:

"Banff wildlife ecologist Tony Clevenger sees the high cost of wildlife crossings as a design problem and initiated the ARC Competition as a response. His colleagues at the Western Transportation Institute, together with the Woodcock Foundation, invited interdisciplinary teams to design wildlife overpasses for West Vail Pass, which is along a stretch of I-70 passing through the Rockies 100 miles west of Denver, and to compete for a $40,000 honorarium. The crossings would serve populations of black bear, bighorn sheep, lynx, bobcat, elk, coyote and deer inhabiting the national forests divided by the freeway. Five finalist teams — chosen from a pool of 36 — developed solutions that were not only materially and functionally innovative, but also cost-effective."

Well, it looks as though the conversation has already started.  Maybe you could keep it going in your area. 

Here are some more links:

Science2.0 - Road Ecology: An Often Overlooked Field Of Conservation Research

Road Ecology Center at UCDavis

Toronto Zoo - Toronto Road Ecology Group

And  here is an example of  "critter crossings" for badgers from The Netherlands.  The article says the crossings have been very successful:

"In fact, badger tunnels in the Netherlands have been so effective it is now standard procedure to consider them for every new highway project."

That's great news.  I am convinced the sad problem of our beloved pets, ferals, and wildlife becoming roadkill can be solved. And I believe we can make cars and roads safer for people, too.

You know, just in case they can't read the signs.

Available at
We need one of those.

PS The safest place for cats is in your home.

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