Wildlife and cars just don’t mix. As human populations continue to encroach on important animal habitats, the construction of roads means that more species are getting hit by vehicles than ever before. And animals aren’t the only ones who need to be worried—high speed collisions with large creatures can also prove fatal to drivers and passengers.
Something clearly needs to be done, and conservationists are continuing to come up with clever ways to cut down the number of animals that die on our roads. Here are some of the current technologies being used to prevent roadkill.
Electromagnetic wildlife detectors
Wildlife detectors have been buried under Highway 160 in Colorado, a particularly notorious stretch of road for animal-car collisions. These work using electromagnetism, detecting when a wild animal enters the area and triggering flashing signs that warn drivers to look out.
You wouldn’t think that bats need bridges, considering they fly everywhere they go. However, the winged mammals can become confused when new roads are built, especially when the hedges that they previously followed are removed for construction. Bat bridges assist their echolocation, acting as a substitute to the hedgerows and warning bats to fly high enough to avoid oncoming traffic.
Mobile phone apps
A basic app could be the key to tracking instances of roadkill and finding solutions. It allows the user to submit GPS-tagged entries into a large database, determining the worst areas for roadkill so that preventative measures can be found. It’s only been used for a private study so far, but the app’s inventor Daniel Olson hopes that his technology will eventually be open to the public, allowing citizen scientists to help prevent unnecessary animal deaths.
The largest wildlife monitoring system in California is an interactive map featuring over 290,000 observations of roadkill. The map includes more than half of the state’s native vertebrates, ranging from bears to lizards. Anyone who spots roadkill on Californian roads can add to the map using this online form, helping local conservationists to locate danger zones and, hopefully, reduce the death toll.
What could be more deterring to a vulnerable animal than the smell of a dangerous predator? That’s the thinking behind scent fences. Odour-infused foam containing the scent of scary animals like wolves, bears and (scariest of all) humans is sprayed on trees near the roadside, helping prey species such as deer and boars to look for a safer crossing.
Tapirs in South America are particularly at risk of becoming roadkill. The nocturnal creatures regularly look for food near roads, and drivers find them difficult to spot at night when they’re most active. Luckily, scientists have come up with a deceptively simple way to warn drivers of a tapir’s presence: reflective stickers placed on GPS collars means that the animals are easier to see in the dark.
Fluorescent antler paint
Reindeer herders in Finland have taken inspiration from Rudolph: they’re making their livestock glow in the dark. Fluorescent dyes are being tested on deer antlers to determine which shades are easiest to spot in the night while still resisting the harsh Arctic weather. It sounds ridiculous, but considering the hundreds of reindeer-related accidents that occur every year in Finland, any solution that works is a good one.
Wildlife crossings help all sorts of species to cross busy roads without getting harmed. One such crossing in Davis, California has become particularly famous—a toad tunnel that lets the area’s native amphibians cross from one side of a busy highway to the other. A toad town, complete with miniature buildings, decorates the tunnel’s exit