Two mountain lions walk through woods in daylight

Drivers Encouraged to be Alert and Aware During Watch Out for Wildlife Week

They aren’t watching out for you, so you need watch out for them.

This time of year, the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions typically peak as animals start migrating to winter habitat, mating season begins for deer and elk, and bears spend more time foraging before hibernation. To help reduce collisions, Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) remind motorists to be on the lookout during Watch Out for Wildlife Week, which runs Sept. 15-21.

Watch Out for Wildlife Week marks the beginning of the migration season for California’s wildlife, particularly elk and deer. Many of California’s roadways cut through these animals’ routes. It is vital that drivers be especially alert now through December to avoid collisions with wild animals. These crashes not only harm wildlife, but they can damage vehicles and cause injury and death to drivers and passengers.

“Caltrans is dedicated to improving the safety of California drivers, which includes being responsible when it comes to the environment,” said Caltrans Acting Director Bob Franzoia. “This can mean installing flashing warning signs and building ramps and larger culverts for safer passage over and under our roads.”

“From September through December, wildlife often exhibit natural behaviors that can increase their movements and activity nearer to humans and roadways,” said CDFW Conflict Programs Coordinator Vicky Monroe. “That makes large animals such as deer, bears and mountain lions more likely to be killed or injured by wildlife-vehicle collisions.”

According to the California Highway Patrol, 15 people died and 810 people were injured in 4,368 collisions with animals on state, county and local roadways throughout California between 2017 and 2018. The UC Davis Road Ecology Center estimates the total annual cost of animalvehicle conflicts in California to be at least $307 million in 2018.

Wildlife experts offer the following tips for motorists:

  • Be extra alert when driving near areas wildlife frequent, such as streams and rivers, and reduce your speed especially around curves.
  • Don’t text and drive! Leave your phone alone; it can wait.
  • Pay extra attention driving during the morning and evening hours when wildlife are often most active.
  • If you see an animal on or near the road, know that others may be following.
  • Don’t litter. Trash and food odors can attract animals to roadways.
  • Pay attention to road shoulders. Look for movement or reflecting eyes. Slow down and honk your horn if you see an animal on or near the road.
  • Respect wildlife. California is their home too.

The Watch Out for Wildlife campaign is supported by Caltrans, CDFW, Defenders of Wildlife and the UC Davis Road Ecology Center.

Here are a few examples of what Caltrans, CDFW and their partners are doing to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, improve awareness of key issues and improve ecological sustainability:

Twin Gulches Undercrossings Provide Safe Passage for Pacific Fishers on State Route 299

Caltrans District 2 staff continue to monitor the Twin Gulches undercrossings that were constructed to provide safe passage for wildlife, including a rare species, the Pacific fisher. These crossings were constructed as part of the Twin Gulches Curve Improvement Project, which was finished in 2016. Photos from four trail cameras currently in place at the inlets and outlets of the culverts have captured several species using these structures.

A brown Pacific fisher with a black muzzle walks through an oversized steels culvert at night
A rare Pacific fisher passes through an oversized culvert constructed specifically for wildlife west of Redding under SR-299.

Construction of Wildlife Undercrossings Scheduled near Placerville

The Camino Safety Project east of Placerville in El Dorado County will go to construction next year and will include a 12-foot by 12-foot box culvert as a wildlife undercrossing, eight-foot wildlife fence, and four wildlife escape ramps for animals that may become trapped in the right-of-way. Camera monitoring and wildlife tracking show the project on U.S. Highway 50 will benefit deer, coyotes, foxes, and other species.

A doe and fawn walk through green, gold, and brown woodland
A doe and fawn traverse a patch of woodland near SR-50 and the site of a proposed box culvert that will be built for wildlife, as part of the Camino Safety Project in summer 2020. Caltrans photo

SR-68 Wildlife Crossing Improvements Planned in Monterey County

Caltrans has started environmental studies for the SR-68 Corridor Improvements Project that will include wildlife connectivity improvements near Monterey. The project follows recommendations from the Route 68 Scenic Highway Plan completed by the Transportation Agency of Monterey County (TAMC) in 2017. At TAMC’s request, Pathways for Wildlife installed wildlife cameras at culverts that cross under the highway. Their data were used to identify locations along the corridor where future improvements will be made to promote safe passage for wildlife under SR-68.

A tawny, faintly-marked bobcat walks out of a dark culvert
A bobcat crosses under SR-68 in Monterey County. Photo courtesy of Pathways for Wildlife

Southern California’s Liberty Canyon Wildlife Overpass

The storied Liberty Canyon Wildlife Overpass would be the largest stand-alone bridge built specifically for wildlife in the country once constructed. The overpass would reconnect the Santa Monica Mountains and the Simi Hills in Los Angeles County and span 10 lanes of traffic on U.S. Highway 101 and a frontage road. Caltrans and its partners have recently entered the  design phase for the bridge, which is a significant milestone in delivering a construction project. Fundraising efforts to raise $60 million for construction costs are ongoing.

Grant-funded Work to Improve Wildlife Connectivity Underway in Ventura County

Thanks to an Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program grant from the California Natural Resources Agency, Caltrans District 7 is installing upgrades to a wildlife undercrossing on SR-118 in Ventura County. These modifications include adding directional wildlife fencing and a ramp to better guide wildlife to the safe passageway. The National Park Service will help Caltrans monitor the success of this project after construction.

A new chain-link fence on undeveloped land ends at a freeway underpass
Chain-link fencing on SR-118 in Ventura County guides animals along the Mejico Creek corridor and safely under the highway.

Partnering Efforts Underway

Caltrans continues to partner with external agencies and nongovernmental organizations around the state to identify solutions for reducing roadkill. Caltrans’ District 2 office in Redding is a partner on the Elk Strike Prevention Team dedicated to identifying ways to reduce the number of elk-vehicle collisions on SR-97. Other team members include the California Highway Patrol, the UC Davis Road Ecology Center, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the California Deer Association.

The Caltrans’ District 8 office in San Bernardino has teamed up with The Nature Conservancy, Cal Poly Pomona, and UC Davis mountain lion researcher Winston Vickers to conduct field work on assessing wildlife connectivity near Interstate 15 in Riverside and San Diego counties. The team is particularly focused on studying the movement of mountain lions across the highway between the Temecula Creek Bridge and the Riverside/San Diego county line. Study results will help inform the development of conceptual design improvements for the wildlife corridor.

An 8-lane freeway cuts through dry, rocky, uneven terrain
I-15 in Riverside County is a deadly barrier through mountain lion habitat.

Wildlife-vehicle Collision Hotspot Analysis and Other Research

In partnership with the Western Transportation Institute, Caltrans recently completed a hotspot analysis that identifies the stretches of California highways with the highest frequencies of deer-vehicle collisions. This project will help determine where potential improvements may be needed to improve roadway safety. The report is available for download through the Western Transportation Institute’s (WTI) webpage.

Caltrans is funding research being completed by the U.S. Geological Survey and WTI to develop ways to help threatened and endangered amphibians and reptiles move around. Researchers are also developing crossing designs for amphibians and reptiles, including a low-lying bridge concept being tested on a dirt road in the Sierra National Forest. If adopted for use on California’s state highways, such a bridge would provide more space than traditional small diameter culverts for small-bodied amphibians and reptiles to move beneath roadways. Additionally, Caltrans is participating in a Pooled Fund Study with several other state departments of transportation to investigate cost-effective measures for reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions.

A mule deer walks across a paved two-lane road with a double-yellow line
This mule deer crossing a California highway is a good reminder to motorists to be alert to other users of the State Highway System.

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Media Contacts:
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420
Alisa Becerra, Caltrans Public Affairs, (916) 919-1701

Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Urge Drivers to be Alert During Watch Out for Wildlife Week

To help reduce collisions, Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife remind motorists to be on the lookout during Watch Out for Wildlife Week, which runs Sept. 16 – 22.

“With every project we build, we look for innovative ways to protect drivers and wildlife,” said Caltrans Director Laurie Berman. “That can be as simple as installing flashing warning signs or putting in specialized fencing and crossings to provide wildlife with safe passages. Drivers can make a difference too, just by staying alert.”

Watch Out for Wildlife Week coincides with the season when California’s deer and elk migrate and look for mates, and California’s roadways often cut through these animals’ migration routes. It’s vital that drivers be especially alert now through December to avoid collisions with wildlife. These crashes not only harm wildlife, but collisions with large animals can damage vehicles and cause injury and death to drivers and passengers.

“In the fall, wildlife exhibit natural behaviors that can lead them to more unpredictable movements, and nearer to humans and roadways,” said Vicky Monroe, CDFW Statewide Conflict Programs Coordinator. “Deer, bears and other wildlife are most likely to be killed or injured by vehicle collisions between September and December. Bucks fight for mates during breeding season, does travel more with their fawns, and many deer herds migrate to their winter ranges. Black bears travel farther for food as they enter a period of excessive eating and drinking to fatten up for hibernation.”

According to the California Highway Patrol, 12 people died and 383 people were injured in 2,134 collisions with wildlife on state, county, and local roadways throughout California in 2017.

Wildlife experts offer the following tips for motorists:

  • Be extra alert when driving near areas wildlife frequent, such as streams and rivers, and reduce your speed so you can react safely.
  • Pay extra attention driving during the morning and evening when wildlife are often most active.
  • If you see an animal on or near the road, know that another may be following.
  • Don’t litter. Trash odors can attract animals to roadways.
  • Pay attention to road shoulders. Look for movement or reflecting eyes. Slow down and honk your horn if you see an animal on or near the road.

The Watch Out for Wildlife campaign is supported by Caltrans, CDFW, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis.

Here are a few examples of what Caltrans, CDFW, and their partners are doing to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, improve awareness of key issues, and improve ecological sustainability:

Highway 395, Improving Wildlife Connectivity in Lassen County

Caltrans is modifying existing undercrossings that were installed on U.S. Highway 395 in Lassen County near the California-Nevada border more than 25 years ago. To improve the area for wildlife, Caltrans will remove deer gates, install escape ramps for mule deer, and extend fencing to guide animals to existing undercrossings. The project area will be monitored with wildlife cameras.

A dry streambed full of rocks next to a chain link fence alongside a rural southern Calfiornia freeway
New fencing and a former streambed with new vegetation entices wildlife to cross under US-101 in Liberty Canyon in Los Angeles County.

Highway 101, Liberty Canyon Undercrossing in Los Angeles County

The completed environmental document for the famous U.S. Highway 101 Liberty Canyon Project was signed in September 2017. Until a large overpass can be constructed, Caltrans has managed several short-term improvements in the Liberty Canyon area to entice mountain lions to cross safely underneath US-101. New fencing is designed to prevent animals from trying to cross the highway, and a former streambed south of Agoura Road has new vegetation to guide animals safely under the highway.

Highway 101, Wildlife Monitoring Cameras in Sonoma County

Caltrans is monitoring wildlife movement on U.S. Highway 101 north of Santa Rosa. Cameras have been installed on culverts that cross under the highway, and Caltrans regularly downloads images from the cameras to understand more about wildlife in the project area. Mountain lions are just one species that have been observed checking out the culverts along US-101. Camera data will be used to determine potential future improvements that will allow animals to safely cross US-101.

Highway 74, Bighorn Sheep Warning Signs in Riverside County

A yellow, diamond-shaped sign with a black bighorn sheep silhouette, and a small rectangular sign that says "Next 7 miles" in the southern California desert.
Sign warns drivers to watch for bighorn sheep on SR-74.

Efforts are underway to decrease vehicle collisions with Peninsular bighorn sheep, a federally endangered species, on a windy portion of State Route 74 above Palm Desert. In June 2018, Caltrans installed four bighorn sheep warning signs with two flashing beacons to alert drivers that sheep may be in the area. This was a coordinated effort with the Bighorn Institute, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and CDFW.

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Media Contacts:
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420
Tamie McGowen, Caltrans Public Affairs, (916) 657-5060

A blue river snakes through a wide green valley with a single conical mountain in the background under blue sky

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

At its May 24 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $13 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 12 approved projects will benefit fish and wildlife—including some endangered species—while others will provide public access to important natural resources. Several projects will also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes that integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment, landowners and the local community.

Funding for these projects comes from a combination of sources including the Habitat Conservation Fund and bond measures approved by voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources.

Funded projects include:

  • $186,250 in two grants to the Mojave Desert Land Trust to acquire approximately 367 acres of land from two separate owners for the protection of desert habitat corridors in the Morongo Basin, near the community of Joshua Tree in San Bernardino County.
  • A $600,000 grant to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) for a cooperative project with the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to implement a large scale Nutria eradication project in riparian corridors and associated wetland habitats located in various Central Valley counties of the San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
  • A $610,000 grant to the Pacific Forest Trust for a cooperative project with the California Department of Transportation and CDFW to acquire a forest conservation easement over approximately 1,346 acres of land for protection of working forest lands, forest reserve areas, watersheds, fisheries and habitat linkages near the town of McCloud in Siskiyou County.
  • A $2,440,000 in-fee acquisition of approximately 5,849 acres of land by CDFW for the protection of critical cold water aquatic habitat for a variety of anadromous fish species, including the state and federally listed coho salmon, the protection of migration corridors vital to many plant, bird and mammal species, and to provide ongoing dryland grazing and future wildlife-oriented public use opportunities near Montague in Siskiyou County.
  • A $4.4 million grant to The Nature Conservancy for a cooperative project with CalFire, the State Coastal Conservancy and the California Natural Resources Agency to acquire a conservation easement on approximately 23,681 acres of native forest habitats, including redwood, Douglas fir and Grand fir in the upland zones, and mature red alder forests within the riparian zone along the Ten Mile River. The easement is needed to preserve wildlife area linkages, provide habitat to numerous wildlife species, and reduce soil erosion and sustain water quality near Fort Bragg in Mendocino County.
  • A $950,000 grant to the National Forest Foundation for a cooperative project with U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to thin approximately 230 acres of forest, five miles southwest of Tahoe City in Placer County.
  • A $511,000 grant to the California Waterfowl Association for a cooperative project with the City of Woodland and Explorit to enhance and restore approximately 20 acres of wetlands at the Woodland Regional Park, approximately five miles southeast of the City of Woodland.
  • A $1.6 million grant to the Trust for Public Land for a cooperative project with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to acquire approximately 51 acres of land for the protection of threatened and endangered species, riparian and floodplain habitat along the Santa Clara River and to provide the potential for wildlife-oriented public use opportunities near Acton in Los Angeles County.

For more information about the WCB please visit www.wcb.ca.gov.

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Media Contacts:
John Donnelly, WCB Executive Director, (916) 445-0137
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Watch Out for Wildlife Week Reminds Motorists to Slow Down & Be Alert

Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) remind motorists to remain alert for wildlife on roadways during Watch Out for Wildlife Week, which runs September 18-24.

“Drivers can improve their own safety by simply slowing down and remaining alert while driving,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “We are committed to safety while being mindful of the environment, using signage, fencing, and undercrossings to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions along roadways, especially in wildlife corridors.”

“Between now and December, deer and other wildlife are more susceptible than usual to vehicle collisions,” said Marc Kenyon, CDFW’s Human-Wildlife Conflict Program Manager. “Soon, deer will start their annual migrations to winter range, bucks will be preoccupied competing for mates, and bears will be searching for food in preparation for hibernation. Such natural behaviors can lead these animals into the way of unsuspecting drivers. Drivers can prevent collisions with animals by being careful and paying attention.”

Wildlife experts offer the following tips for motorists:

  • Be especially alert when driving in wildlife areas, and reduce your speed so you can react safely.
  • Pay particular attention when driving during the morning and evening, as wildlife are most active during these times.
  • If you see an animal cross the road, know that others may be following.
  • Don’t litter. The odors may entice animals to venture near roadways.

The Watch Out for Wildlife campaign is supported by Caltrans, CDFW, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis.

Here are a few of examples of what Caltrans, CDFW, and their partners are doing to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, improve awareness of key issues, and improve ecological sustainability:

Highway 17 Laurel Curve Wildlife Crossing, Santa Cruz County

The Laurel Curve Crossing Project is a planned undercrossing that will enhance wildlife movement to either side of Highway 17. Highway 17 over the Santa Cruz Mountains is a four-lane road that has become heavily-traveled in recent years, particularly by people who commute between the Santa Cruz and San Francisco Bay areas. The part of Highway 17 that includes Laurel Curve is in an essential connectivity area for wildlife, cutting through prime habitat. Deer, bears, mountain lions and smaller wildlife attempt to cross the highway in their normal migration and foraging patterns, creating hazards for themselves and motorists. The Laurel Curve Wildlife Crossing project is a collaboration of several local and state partners including the Santa Cruz County Land Trust, Pathways for Wildlife, the UC Santa Cruz Puma Project, Caltrans, and CDFW. Funding sources include Advance Mitigation Program funds from the 2016 State Highway Operation and Protection Program.

Highway 89, Sierra County

On a stretch of Highway 89 between Truckee and Sierraville, a recently-completed $2.08 million project consists of two new 12-foot by 10-foot wildlife undercrossings, providing a safe path for animals to cross under the roadway. The project also includes four escape ramps and over 14,000 linear feet of deer fencing on both sides of the highway to help prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Highway 246, Santa Barbara County

Six new highway undercrossings have been designed for California tiger salamanders and small animals to pass safely between breeding ponds and upland habitat on the opposite sides of Highway 246 between Buellton and Lompoc. This species is protected under both the state and federal Endangered Species Acts. In addition to the design and implementation of these six undercrossings, Caltrans has proposed a five-year monitoring study to assess the undercrossings’ effects on California tiger salamanders and other animals crossing the highway. The project is in the final stages and is expected to be completed this fall.

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Media Contacts:
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420
Patrick Olsen, Patrick Olsen, Caltrans Public Affairs, (916) 654-3633

State Agencies Pilot Wildlife Crossing Mitigation Credit System

California’s state wildlife and transportation departments signed a credit agreement on an innovative pilot project to create advanced mitigation credits for wildlife highway crossings. The mitigation crediting system developed for the Laurel Curve Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Project on Highway 17 in Santa Cruz County can be used to transition into a statewide program being developed through the new Regional Conservation Investments Strategies Program.

Using the Laurel Curve project as a pilot, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) developed a model compensatory mitigation crediting system.

An agreement between CDFW and Caltrans creates credits that can be used to mitigate for impacts to wildlife movement for future transportation projects within a geographical area defined as the Service Area, and determines the price of each credit. Mitigation credits are calculated using a first-of-its-kind methodology which takes into account the length of highway to be improved in lane miles or the project footprint in acres and the total cost of the project. When appropriate, Caltrans may sell or transfer the credits within Caltrans or to other transportation agencies with projects in the Service Area, thereby freeing funds for additional infrastructure projects.

“Highway 17 bisects undeveloped, wildlife-rich land in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and for the safety of deer, mountain lion, and motorists, too, we need to connect this habitat with a safe corridor,” said California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird.  “CDFW, Caltrans and the new transportation package have come together to solve this problem.”

Senate Bill 1, the transportation funding package, includes $30 million for advanced mitigation strategies for projects similar to the creative Highway 17 project.

“Not only will this improve wildlife habitat connectivity and highway safety, but will also allow us to expedite future transportation projects using the mitigation credits made available,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

CDFW and Caltrans worked closely with the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to formulate the credit agreement. Caltrans, CDFW, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, Pathways for Wildlife, the U.C. Santa Cruz Puma Study and the Santa Cruz County Transportation Commission all worked together to develop a solution for the wildlife crossing at Laurel Curve.

Caltrans has built similar wildlife crossings on highways 1, 68, 101, 152 and 280.

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Media Contacts:
Jennifer Garrison, CDFW Habitat Conservation Planning Branch, (916) 653-9779
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 651-7824
Jim Shivers, Caltrans, (805) 549-3237