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Hot Spots and Hot Times: Wildlife Road Mortality in a Regional Conservation Corridor

Strategies to reduce wildlife road mortality have become a significant component of many conservation efforts. However, their success depends on knowledge of the temporal and spatial patterns of mortality. We studied these patterns along the 1000 Islands Parkway in Ontario, Canada, a 37 km road that runs adjacent to the St. Lawrence River and bisects the Algonquin-to-Adirondacks international conservation corridor. Characteristics of all vertebrate road kill were recorded during 209 bicycle surveys conducted from 2008 to 2011. We estimate that over 16,700 vertebrates are killed on the road from April to October each year; most are amphibians, but high numbers of birds, mammals, and reptiles were also found, including six reptiles considered at-risk in Canada. Regression tree analysis was used to assess the importance of seasonality, weather, and traffic on road kill magnitude. All taxa except mammals exhibited distinct temporal peaks corresponding to phases in annual life cycles. Variations in weather and traffic were only important outside these peak times. Getis-Ord analysis was used to identify spatial clusters of mortality. Hot spots were found in all years for all taxa, but locations varied annually. A significant spatial association was found between multiyear hot spots and wetlands. The results underscore the notion that multi-species conservation efforts must account for differences in the seasonality of road mortality among species and that multiple years of data are necessary to identify locations where the greatest conservation good can be achieved. This information can be used to inform mitigation strategies with implications for conservation at regional scales. (Read More)