Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Horicon and Highway 49

Aerial view of Horicon NWR (northern half)

It always blows my mind that 2.5 miles of Highway 49 slices right through the northern section of Horicon National Wildlife Refuge. The posted speed limit along the highway is 55 MPH, which means that some cars are moving 65 MPH or faster. Though recently erected signs at both ends of the stretch caution drivers to "give animals a brake," the posted toll of dead birds still climbs into the hundreds by mid summer. It's often young birds, like juvenile Virginia Rails that get hit and become flattened blotches on the road. A recent three-year survey tallied 54 Least Bitterns, 27 Yellow-headed Blackbirds and even six River Otters found dead along Highway 49 - a total of 4,244 dead animals representing 91 species.

Virginia Rail chick - love those feet!

And yet this is a wildlife refuge...does anyone else see a problem with this? Well, thankfully, yes – something has been in the works for a few years. According to an article from Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine, a group of concerned citizens and biologists formed a task force in 2004 to deal with this problem. They met with staff from the refuge, the Department of Transportation, UW, WDNR and Friends of Horicon Marsh to try and come up with a solution.

Least Bittern at Horicon NWR

An article I found on the web states that one project being considered consists of erecting bird deflection poles at intervals along the highway. The objective of the poles is to create a perceived barrier, forcing birds to fly up and over traffic. Of course, this would only solve the problem for birds and not ground mammals. It seems unlikely that the Department of Transportation will move Highway 49 around the refuge, so only ideas on reducing roadkills are being seriously considered.

Read more:

Link: Cars, Horicon Marsh wildlife on collision course

Link: Deadly crossing

All images © 2007 Mike McDowell

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