Wildlife Vehicle Collisions

New research from faculty members James Vance and Wally Smith and Department of Mathematics and Computer Science alum Gabrielle Smith has recently been published in the journal Human-Wildlife Interactions. Smith is currently a graduate student at Virginia Tech. The team investigated rates of wildlife-vehicle collisions in 2015 along two highway routes in Wise, Russell, and Tazewell counties in southwest Virginia, finding nearly 2,000 individual roadkill events impacting 65 different wildlife species. Their results provide valuable information for transportation officials and others seeking to minimize wildlife-vehicle collisions on Appalachian roadways – a leading cause of wildlife mortality and a phenomenon that costs billions annually to drivers across the nation.  You can access the full article here.

IMG_0590In 2015 we conducted biweekly roadkill surveys from Richlands, VA to Wise, Va along Rt. 19 and Rt. 58.  We observed 1837 roadkills from 65 species.  We traveled a total of 15,022 km.  We observed 1415 mammals, 188 birds, 122 domestic animals, and 105 reptiles with 9.7 roadkills per 100 km on the Coalfields Route and 15.0 roadkills per 100 km on the Ridge and Valley Route.


IMG_1211Several species of conservation concern were observed as roadkill.  According to the Virginia Wildlife Action Plan, Tier I – Critical Conservation Need: yellow-bellied sapsucker (1), Tier III – High Conservation Need: eastern box turtle (43), Tier IV – Moderate Conservation Need: gray catbird (5), eastern towhee (4), brown thrasher (2), eastern meadowlark (2), chimney swift (1), eastern kingbird (1), eastern wood-pewee (1), yellow-throated vireo (1).


IMG_0619The bulk of the roadkills were meso-mammals including 408 Virginia opossums, 272 raccoons, 161 woodchucks, 127 eastern cottontails, 99 domestic cats, 98 stripped skunks.  We also observed 79 northern gray squirrels, 58 fox squirrels, 53 white-tailed deer, 43 eastern box turtles, 27 eastern screech owls, and 24 snapping turtles.



IMG_1681Using the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Information Service, of the 24 species of mammals over 100 grams that occur in our area, we detected 83% with no detection of mammals under 100 grams.  For snakes and turtles we observed 22% of the 18 species over 100 grams with no detection of reptiles under 100 grams.



For birds, we detected 26% of the 68 species over 100 grams and 15% of the 134 species under 100 grams. We have to conclude that roads have a huge negative impact on wildlife in Southwest Virginia.




Listen to an interview with Dr. Vance entitled “Animal Intersections: Decoding the Problem of Roadkill” With Good Reason Radio aired on April 28, 2017.