Tag Archives: wildlife crossings

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

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