News & Media
Deer Crossing Signs Intended for People, Not Wildlife
Tucson, AZ – Early this month an audio recording of a North Dakota radio station caller known as “Donna the Deer Lady” went viral on YouTube, after she complained that the government was placing deer crossing signs in high-traffic areas. “It seems to me that it’s so irresponsible of us to allow these deer crossings to be in an area where these deer are so likely to be struck by oncoming traffic,” she said. “Wouldn’t you agree? The government can direct the deer population anywhere they want to, all they have to do is move that deer crossing sign.”
Although this may at first appear to be a funny prank, the fact is that many people – even here in Arizona – are unaware of a growing problem in the west: wildlife need room to roam, and unfortunately do not understand traffic signs.
Arizona is blessed with spectacular landscapes from the Grand Canyon to the Chiricahua Mountains, and abundant, diverse wildlife, including deer, badger, coati, javelina and desert tortoise: Landscapes and wildlife that are increasingly threatened by a growing human population, that results in large areas of land becoming fragmented by roads and development. Without the ability to move, our wildlife and our landscapes suffer.
“Connected open spaces and wildlife crossings are not only critical for our wildlife,” says Carolyn Campbell, Executive Director of the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, “but are also vitally important for our economy and quality of life.”
According to a 2006 US Fish and Wildlife Service report, the economic effect of wildlife associated recreation (hunting, fishing and wildlife watching) for Arizona exceeds $2 billion, supporting more than 36,450 jobs and generating over $178 million in annual state and local tax revenue.* In addition, healthy and abundant wildlife populations are indicators of clean air and water. When you also consider the cost of human safety and vehicle damage from wildlife-vehicle collisions, wildlife corridors and crossings just make economic sense.
Even though deer and other animals cannot decipher human-made signs, there are ways to help them safely travel where they want to go. “Wildlife cross the road to find a mate, raise young, and to reach food, shelter, and water… not so different from when you cross the hallway between your bedroom and kitchen, or from your home to the grocery store,” explains Jessica Moreno, a local Arizona biologist with Sky Island Alliance. “With careful observation and study, we can learn where wildlife are trying to cross roads and highways by recording instances of road kill, tracking their footprints, and photographing them with motion-activated cameras in culverts and underpasses.”
In other words, deer are posting their own signs for people to read.
New innovations and technologies are being developed to address this issue, and in Arizona we are creating some very exciting solutions with long-term economic benefits. Following the example of proven and award-winning wildlife crossing designs from Banff, Canada and Colorado, we have leapt forward with cutting-edge ideas. Bighorn sheep now trot over specially designed overpasses on US Interstate 93 near Kingman with ease; a new type of near invisible, flexible wildlife fencing funnels animals to underpasses; and, motion sensing traffic lights replace the pedestrian “walk” button for elk.
“We are constantly moving forward and finding new ways to allow wildlife and people to co-exist, and these innovative wildlife corridor projects are the most inspiring,” says Moreno. “Local residents are involved in wildlife monitoring, and these efforts have led to new mapping tools, wildlife overpasses and protected wildways… results that work and that benefit the entire community.”
Next month, residents and visitors have an opportunity to learn more about Arizona’s wildlife crossings, opportunities to volunteer, and discover more about local wildlife (and maybe even meet a few), at the upcoming family-friendly WILD Connections event in Tucson, AZ at Catalina State Park, on November 10-11. For more information about the event, visit www.sonorandesert.org/wildconnections.
Sorry, Donna. Next time you are in Arizona, we’ll be sure to show you where the deer are crossing: Just look for the signs.
*Source: USFWS 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation; and, USFWS Wildlife Watching in the U.S.: The Economic Impacts on National and State Economies in 2006 – Addendum to the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
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About the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection:
The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection works to create a community where: ecosystem health is protected; nature and healthy wild animal populations are valued; and residents, visitors, and future generations can all drink clean water, breathe clean air, and find wild places to roam. www.sonorandesert.org.
About Sky Island Alliance:
Sky Island Alliance is a grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of the rich natural heritage of native species and habitats in the Sky Island region of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. We work with volunteers, scientists, land owners, public officials, and government agencies to establish protected areas, restore healthy landscapes, and promote public appreciation of the region’s unique biological diversity. www.skyislandalliance.org.
What: “WILD Connections” is a celebration of wildlife, landscapes, and community hosted by Sky Island Alliance and the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection. This community event features local exhibitors, children’s activities, public presentations, workshops on monitoring wildlife using motion activated cameras and track and scat identification, hikes and birding walks, and wildlife demonstrations. For more information about the event, visit www.sonorandesert.org/wildconnections.
Saturday, November 10,9am – 4pm:Exhibitor Booths, Public Presentations, Wildlife Demonstrations, Guided Hikes, Bird Walks, Children’s Activities & More
Sunday, November 11:RSVP online at www.sonorandesert.org/wildconnections for these activities:Wildlife Tracking & Other Biological Surveys, Wildlife Camera Monitoring, Highway Cleanup & More
Who: Open to the public; family friendly.
Where: Catalina State Park, 11570 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ 85737
Admission: $7 per vehicle or $3 per bicycle, collected at park entrance