Tag Archives: Watch Out for Wildlife

Caltrans, Fish and Wildlife to Drivers: Watch out for Wildlife

Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are cautioning motorists of an unusually high number of collisions between drivers and wildlife on mountain highways this autumn. The increase has been particularly notable on Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 50 in Placer and El Dorado counties.

“There were an unprecedented 23 incidents involving large animals on Highway 50 and I-80 in just six days from Nov. 14-19,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “Drivers need to use caution and watch out for wildlife as they travel through the Sierras and other rural areas.”

“Motorists need to be on the lookout for animals on or near roadways, particularly deer and bears,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “It’s not only dangerous for the animals, but drivers and their passengers can be injured or killed if they hit – or swerve to miss – an animal.”

Caltrans and CDFW offer a few tips for motorists:

Be particularly alert when driving in areas frequented by wildlife and give yourself more time than usual to react safely by reducing your speed.

  • “Sweep” the roadway from side to side with your eyes as you drive. This increases your chance of seeing anything that might become a hazard.
  • Pay particular attention when driving during morning and evening, as wildlife are most active during these times.
  • If you see an animal cross the road, know that another may be following it.
  • Don’t litter. Odors from all kinds of products may entice animals to venture near roadways.

There are probably several factors behind the animals’ increased movements near highways. One is the deer rut, or mating season, and bucks are always more active this time of year. Recent wildfires in the mountains and foothills also destroyed a considerable amount of vegetation, forcing wildlife to travel farther than usual to forage. The drought has stressed existing vegetation, likely reducing its normal nutritional value and forcing animals to eat more than usual. Bears are getting ready for hibernation and are foraging far and wide to get enough nutrition to make it through the winter.

“Wildlife corridors” constructed under some highways have helped reduce wildlife-related incidents. Caltrans recently completed construction of a wildlife crossing on State Highway 89 in Sierra County and has two others planned for construction next season. The district also built a wildlife crossing on Highway 50 and has a project programmed for next season to study wildlife activity near state highways.

In addition, Caltrans has wildlife warning signs posted in key areas along its state highway system and will be installing more with help from CDFW and other partner agencies. Caltrans will also be using its electronic message boards to alert motorists of increased wildlife activity.

Caltrans District 3 is responsible for maintaining and operating 4,385 lane miles in 11 Sacramento Valley and Northern Sierra counties. CDFW’s North Central Region is responsible for managing California’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources across 17 counties.

Please visit the Living with Wildlife web page at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Living-with-Wildlife for more information and to report a wildlife incident or dead or injured wildlife.

Media Contacts:
Steve Nelson, Caltrans, (530) 741-4566

Dana Michaels, CDFW, (916) 322-2420

Caltrans and the Department of Fish and Wildlife Urge Motorists to Be Alert During Watch Out for Wildlife Week

Caltrans and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) remind motorists to remain alert for wildlife near roadways during Watch Out for Wildlife Week (WOW), which runs September 15-21.

“It’s important that motorists, when driving through areas frequented by deer, elk and other animals, be alert to protect themselves as well as California’s wildlife,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

Defenders of Wildlife (Defenders), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting native species and their natural communities, reports more than 200 people are killed nationally in collisions with deer, elk and other large mammals each year with an estimated 1.5 million animals hit annually.

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

“It’s a shame that many animals and people are injured and killed on our roads every year,” said Craig Stowers, CDFW’s Game Program Manager. “Many injuries, deaths and costly vehicle repairs can be avoided if drivers would pay more attention when animals are most active, and be prepared to react safely if an animal moves onto the road.”

Caltrans, CDFW and Defenders offer a few tips for motorists:

  • Be particularly alert when driving in areas frequented by wildlife and give yourself more time to react safely by reducing your speed.
  • Pay particular attention when driving during morning and evening, as wildlife are most active during these times.
  • If you see an animal cross the road, know that another may be following.
  • Don’t litter. The odors may entice animals to venture near roadways.

Here are a few examples of what Caltrans, CDFW and their partners are doing to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions:

a beautiful golden bob cat walking out from a highway underpass
A bobcat that just crossed safely under State Route 76 in San Diego County. Caltrans photo
two coyotes walk into concrete underpass to reach other side of a highway
Coyotes safely cross under SR 76 in San Diego County. Caltrans photo

Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing, Los Angeles County
Caltrans has applied for $2 million in federal funding for the environmental and engineering design phases of a future wildlife crossing over U.S. Highway 101 at Liberty Canyon Road in Agoura Hills. In the interim, Caltrans is providing wildlife fencing in Liberty Canyon to prevent wildlife mortalities along the freeway until a permanent structure can be built. The highway presents an impassible barrier for wildlife migrating into or out of the Santa Monica Mountains.  A new wildlife crossing promises to provide an improved habitat connection that will sustain and improve the genetic diversity of wildlife in the area.

State Route 76, San Diego County
Five wildlife crossings and directional fencing were installed as part of the SR-76 Melrose to Mission Highway Improvement Project in 2012. A wildlife movement study, including road kill surveys, camera station surveys and tracking transect surveys, is underway to determine the effectiveness of the crossings and fencing. A review of the data collected to date suggests the combination of directional fencing and wildlife crossings may be limiting vehicle-wildlife collisions and allowing for wildlife movement across SR-76. Medium-to-large species using the wildlife crossings include the badger, bobcat, coyote, raccoon, striped skunk, desert cottontail and opossum.

State Route 17, Santa Cruz
Caltrans has built wildlife undercrossings to accommodate wildlife on several highways in the Bay Area and is currently working with the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County to build a new wildlife undercrossing at the Laurel Curve on State Route 17. Since 2007, motorists have hit 14 mountain lions along this section of the highway in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Land Trust is working to raise $5 million to purchase land on either side of the Laurel Curve, which would make it possible for Caltrans to proceed with building the undercrossing.

Central Coast
Caltrans is seeking $1.8 million in federal funding to finance wildlife corridor projects in Monterey, San Benito, Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties where local wildlife exists in close proximity to state highways. If the request is approved, Caltrans will obtain an additional $2.5 million in state funding to finance all aspects of the projects. Caltrans assembled an extensive list of stakeholders and partners for this proposal, including the California State Coastal Conservancy, the Nature Conservancy, UC Davis, the Elkhorn Slough Foundation, the Pinnacles National Monument and the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County.

Caltrans has installed new wildlife fencing and electric mats at unfenced intersections along U.S. Highway 101 near San Luis Obispo, which bisects a major wildlife corridor in the Los Padres National Forest.

Media Contacts:
Mark Dinger, Caltrans Public Affairs, 916-657-5060
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, 916-322-2420