Implementing wildlife fences along highways at the appropriate spatial scale: A case study of reducing road mortality of Florida Key deer
Huijser, Marcel P.
Begley, James S.
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Florida Key deer mortality data (1966–2017) showed that about 75% of all reported deer mortalities were related to collisions with vehicles. In 2001–2002, the eastern section of US Hwy 1 on Big Pine Key (Florida, USA) was mitigated with a wildlife fence, 2 underpasses, and 4 deer guards. After mitigation, the number of reported Key deer road mortalities reduced substantially in the mitigated section, but this was negated by an increase in collisions along the unmitigated section of US Hwy 1 on Big Pine Key, both in absolute numbers and expressed as a percentage of the total deer population size. The data also showed that the increase in Key deer collisions along the unmitigated highway section on the island could not be explained through an increase in Key deer population size, or by a potential increase in traffic volume. The overall Key deer road mortality along US Hwy 1 was not reduced but was moved from the mitigated section to the nearby unmitigated section. Thus, there was no net benefit of the fence in reducing collisions. After mitigation, a significant hotspot of Key deer-vehicle collisions appeared at the western fence-end, and additional hotspots occurred further west along the unmitigated highway. Exploratory spatial analyses led us to reject the unmitigated highway section on Big Pine Key as a suitable control for a Before-After-Control-Impact (BACI) analysis into the effectiveness of the mitigation measures in reducing deer-vehicle collisions. Instead, we selected highway sections west and east of Big Pine Key as a control. The BACI analysis showed that the wildlife fence and associated mitigation measures were highly effective (95%) in reducing deer-vehicle collisions along the mitigated highway section. Nonetheless, in order to reduce the overall number of deer-vehicle collisions along US Hwy 1, the entire highway section on Big Pine Key would need to be mitigated. However, further mitigation is complicated because of the many buildings and access roads for businesses and residences. This case study illustrates that while fences and associated measures can be very effective in reducing collisions, wildlife fences that are too short may result in an increase in collisions in nearby unmitigated road sections, especially near fence-ends. Therefore it is important to carefully consider the appropriate spatial scale over which highway mitigation measures are implemented and evaluated.
Huijser MP, Begley JS (2022) Implementing wildlife fences along highways at the appropriate spatial scale: A case study of reducing road mortality of Florida Key deer. In: Santos S, Grilo C, Shilling F, Bhardwaj M, Papp CR (Eds) Linear Infrastructure Networks with Ecological Solutions. Nature Conservation 47: 283–302. https://doi.org/10.3897/ natureconservation.47.72321