Adirondack interstate underpasses designed for wildlife attract anything but, study says

May 22, 2003

Why did the deer cross the road? It didn't. And neither did the bear, fox or coyote, according to a new study by the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society that says wildlife underpasses designed to keep wildlife off the New York Thruway are not working.

The study, published in the Adirondack Journal of Environmental Studies, says that out of 19 underpasses surveyed, only four raccoons passed through a single culvert. The authors, who also included researchers from the New York State Museum, set up camera traps and used tracking techniques to record animals using both drainage culverts and underpasses specifically designed for wildlife and human use.

The passage rates were much lower than those in Florida, where wildlife underpasses have been used with moderate success. The reasons why Adirondack wildlife avoid underpasses are unclear, though researchers suspect that popularity of certain underpasses among ATV-users may be partially to blame. During the same time-period that virtually no wildlife passed, the research team records 20 passes by ATVs.

Or the reason could be that wildlife simply do not like them. "A highway engineer's view of a nice underpass may be quite different from that of a white-tailed deer," said WCS researcher Dr. Justina Ray, a co-author of the study.

The authors say that the results of this study indicate that new interstates planned for the region, including the proposed "Rooftop Highway" to connect I81 and I87 from Watertown to Plattsburg, would have a heavy toll on wildlife.

"Any cost-benefit analysis regarding the proposed 'Rooftop Highway' must consider not only immediate costs to wildlife in terms of road-kills and population isolation, but also the added budgetary considerations needed to attempt to mitigate these costs," said Scott LaPoint, lead author of the study.

Wildlife Conservation Society

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