Protecting wildlife from road danger; we can do better

This week I saw a dead fawn on I-84 lying next to a miles-long concrete barrier separating eastbound and westbound traffic. It’s bad enough that wildlife have to cross railroad tracks and four lanes of high-speed traffic to get to the Columbia River. But the concrete barriers seal their doom.

A few years ago Michigan began installing cable barriers that are cheaper to install and cause less damage to vehicles and humans when a crash occurs – and provide wildlife a means of escape. For more information, read the story in the Detroit Free Press.

After reading that article, I sent the following question to the Oregon Department of Transportation:

Since ODOT installed a miles-long concrete barrier between lanes on I-84 in Hood River and Wasco counties, I’m seeing dead wildlife jammed up against the barrier. Granted, they may have been hit before they wound up against the barrier, but more of them would have had a fighting chance to get across the freeway on their way to the Columbia River if the barrier was something they could crawl under or hop over. As it is, the concrete barrier seals their doom.

The Detroit Free Press interviewed a Michigan DOT spokesman three years ago who said concrete barriers are three or four times more expensive than cable barriers and “do a whole lot more damage to vehicles and have the potential to cause more serious crashes.”

He added that vehicles that crash into the cables are cradled rather than bounced back into traffic, reducing the risk of involving more vehicles, and that other states have seen declines in deaths and injuries where they’ve put up the cable barriers.

Can you tell me why cable barriers were not installed on I-84?

I will let you know what I hear back. And I would be interested to know what you think.

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On a related note:

Last week on two-lane Highway 30 in Mosier I found a large, dead raptor on the side of the road, so maimed by the vehicle that hit it that I couldn’t tell what species it was. Also, the following day I saw a dead scrub jay lying in the road not far from the raptor. These hits took place on a blind curve where the speed is posted at 30 mph. There’s little excuse for driving fast on a narrow, curving road through a residential district. I believe even 30 mph is too fast for this stretch of road.

The people at Rowena Wildlife Clinic regularly urge us to slow down, and these dead birds are a perfect example of why.

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KittensCan you foster kittens and cats?

As always happens this time of year, Catlink and Columbia Gorge Cat Rescue really need people to temporarily foster cats and kittens. If you can help, please contact them.

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© Tracie Hornung and Animals of the Gorge, 2012

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