Rise in Roadkill Requires New Solutions

Vehicle–wildlife collisions kill millions of animals–and harm thousands of people–each year. Scientists are working on solutions

By Melissa Gaskill

In the 1960s widening U.S. Highway 27 just north of Tallahassee cut Florida’s Lake Jackson into two sections. When water levels fell too low in either part, thousands of turtles, frogs, snakes and alligators would hit the road to head for the other side—where cars and trucks often hit the animals. In February of 2000 Matt Aresco, then a PhD student at The Florida State University in Tallahassee, drove through and was stunned at the sight of dozens of crushed turtles. For the next five weeks he patrolled the road between the lakes, once counting 343 dead turtles in 10 days. “It was so heartbreaking to see dozens of turtles, animals that could be 50 or 60 years old, smashed before they make it two feet onto the road,” he says.

Using photos he snapped of the carnage, Aresco convinced the state transportation department to provide nylon fencing, which he set up that April along 1,200 meters on either side of the highway. Between April and August, his makeshift fence intercepted nearly 5,000 turtles that otherwise may have ended up as roadkill.

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