Researchers from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Appalachian Laboratory (Frostburg, MD, USA) have conducted a study in which they set up infrared (IR) motion-detecting cameras to discover what sort of creatures are using the underground storm drains that lie under Maryland's highways.
The results could impact how such storm drains are built and where they are placed to help wildlife connect to habitats bisected by highways, as well as to improve highway safety by reducing collisions.
Storm drains were created to channel streams under roadways, but they are also used by wildlife to pass under the roads, making them an ideal way to link wildlife habitats interrupted by roadways. They have been known to be used by animals around the world to get from one side of the street to the other, including grizzly bears and moose in Canada and panthers and alligators in Florida.
"I was surprised at the sheer number of species using these culverts, from birds to reptiles to mammals," says researcher Ed Gates, PhD. "If we can design storm drains that would encourage animals to use them for crossing, we could minimize mortality on the roads for animals and improve the safety of the roads for us."
In Maryland, it transpired that raccoons use the subterranean highway tunnels the most, but they are not alone. Canada geese hurry goslings through the tunnels. Barn swallows build nests in them. And even the five-lined skink -- one of the most common lizards in the eastern US -- likes to use the concrete entrances for basking and foraging.
More information can be found at www.umces.edu.
-- By Dave Wilson, Senior Editor, Vision Systems Design