Date of Award:

2016

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Ecology

Advisor/Chair:

Patricia C. Cramer

Abstract

Wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs) are a persistent problem that threaten public safety and can negatively affect wildlife populations. Wildlife crossing structures in combination with wildlife exclusion fencing can significantly reduce WVC rates. However, these measures can become ineffective if access roads that bisect fencing to not include barriers to deter animals from entering the highway. My objectives were to: 1) evaluate the relative effectiveness of barriers currently used to exclude mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) from highways, and 2) determine whether cattle guards augmented with segments of electrified pavement could reduce wildlife intrusions through fence openings. Currently, transportation departments are seeking innovative methods to cost-effectively upgrade, augment, or replace cattle guards with barriers capable of reducing wildlife access to transportation infrastructure. In chapter 2, I evaluated the effectiveness of existing wildlife barriers at access roads in Utah. I placed camera traps at 14 vehicle access points in wildlife fencing equipped with one of five different barrier designs. Double cattle guards (two adjoining cattle guards) and wildlife guards (steel grates) were > 80% effective in excluding deer. In contrast, electrified mats (plastic planks with embedded electrodes), standard cattle guards, and cattle guards without excavations were80% effective in excluding deer and >95% effective in excluding elk (Cervus canadensis) from wildlife exclosures constructed in a natural area. However, when installed in the road surface in front of an existing cattle guard, a segment of electrified pavement (0.91-m-wide) was 54% effective in preventing deer intrusions into the fenced highway corridor. Electrified pavement appears to have potential as an effective tool to reduce ungulate access to roadways and other protected areas. However, to fully assess the viability of this emerging technology for use in excluding wildlife from highways, results from ongoing long-term monitoring at replicated in-road installations are needed.

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