Fear drives some animals away from crossings

While wildlife bridges and tunnels are meant to protect animals from vehicle collisions and provide population connectivity, some deer and elk might actually be too scared to use them. Researchers reviewed almost 600 trail camera videos placed by a Trans-Canada Highway wildlife undercrossing near Banff National Park in Alberta. The team took note of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and elk (Cervus canadensis) behavior in and around the wildlife tunnel and found that they changed their behaviors when vehicles passed by due to fear. When vehicles passed by, the ungulates on the roadside near the tunnel often stopped foraging and began to flee or become vigilant, especially when there was more infrequent traffic. Those animals were much less likely to use the underpass. The researchers said the study shows that animals respond in different ways to human activities, which can affect their use of wildlife crossings. Understanding these behaviors, they argue, may help make wildlife crossings more effective.

Read the study in PLoS ONE.