For the past 11.5 years, I’ve been the director of Defenders’ Habitat and Highways program. Friends and family would tell you that I routinely brag about having the coolest job in the world and one of my favorite pastimes is talking to people about it. Sure, roadkill doesn’t make for the best dinner conversation, but it never ceases to amaze me how much people love to talk about it. When I tell people what I do, they always say the same two things:
- “I always see so many dead (insert wildlife species here) when I’m driving along (insert their local highway here).”
- “I hate seeing so much roadkill and wish there was something I could do about it.”
But now they can! Across the country, citizen-based wildlife observation efforts are underway to minimize the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions. One project, I-90 Wildlife Watch, invites motorists to report wildlife sightings along Interstate 90 (I-90) in the Snoqualmie Pass region of Washington. Plans are in the works to widen the highway, which intersects the Cascade Mountains, a critical link in the north-south movement of wildlife. To ensure animals will still be able to move through the area, wildlife crossings will be built under and over the new, wider highway. And what better way to find out where to put those crossings than to ask the people who drive the road every day?
So I-90 Wildlife Watch asks motorists to report their wildlife sightings while traveling I-90 through Snoqualmie Pass. Participants can go to a website, click on “Report a Wildlife Sighting” and answer a few brief questions about what they saw and where. The information gathered from the citizen reports will help determine locations for more than a dozen wildlife crossings along the 15-mile stretch of highway.
Citizen Byron Langley has been submitting wildlife reports since May and now keeps a notepad with him to note relevant details when he can. “I saw this option to volunteer as an easy thing to do to help contribute to a better environment for traffic and animals,” Langley said. “It’s rewarding and fun and helps support the animals.”
Here are just a few more examples of citizens playing a key role in keeping our roads safe for people and wildlife:
California Roadkill Observation System
Colorado I-70 Wildlife Watch
Idaho Fish and Wildlife Information System
Maine’s Wildlife Road Watch
Linking Landscapes for Massachusetts Wildlife
Alberta, Canada’s Road Watch in Crowsnest Pass
Tell us your story:
Do you see wildlife on your daily commute? What animals do you see and where? Send your stories (and photos!) to Highways@defenders.org. Your story might be featured in Friday’s blog post!
WOW Week update:
This week, even more governors have officially proclaimed “Watch Out for Wildlife Awareness Week,” taking the number up to 25! Has your governor joined the effort to make our roads safer? Find out here.