Fraser Shilling, Co-Director, Road Ecology Center, UC Davis
Traffic impacts on wildlife behavior are largely unknown, but may be the primary determinant of wildlife distribution in response to fragmentation from roads. The Road Ecology Center spent ~3 years studying how wildlife were distributed relative to highways and how they behaved in response to instantaneous traffic disturbance. There were complex and species-specific responses to noise and light from traffic. In general, there were fewer species found at highway crossings than in quieter habitat areas ~1 km away. Some species, such as bobcats, did not approach noisier highways and crossings. In contrast, mule deer seemed to take advantage of the noisy human environment to graze peacefully in the absence of more sensitive predators. These findings have led us to begin designing crossings to meet the behavioral needs of wildlife.