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SoCal's Roadkill Danger Zones -- Where You're More Likely To Hit An Animal

A screenshot of UC Davis's Real-time Deer Incidents & Wildlife-Vehicle Conflict (WVC) Hotspots map, showing the problem areas in the L.A. area. (Courtesy UC Davis Road Ecology Center)
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By Mike Roe with Emily Guerin

Even if you've never hit an animal with your car, you've likely seen the grim reminders on the roads showing that animals don't always know how to avoid getting mowed down by the never-ending supply of human traffic. The critter casualties range from possums to mountain lions, squirrels to deer.

A new report from UC Davis looks at the impact of roadkill on both California's drivers and animals -- and offers some possible solutions.

The reality of the situation can be seen in detail on a new UC Davis map, offering a color-coded guide to where we're most likely to run into animals.

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They also use regularly updating data to show where wildlife has been hit over the past week.

In SoCal, our most dangerous highways are the 101, the 405, the 134, and the 74. So, all over the place. Fraser Shilling, author of the UC Davis Road Ecology Center's report, told us what the most dangerous parts of those highways are:

  • 101: Near Calabasas and Agoura Hills
  • 405: Between Sunset Boulevard and Ventura Boulevard -- basically across the Santa Monica Mountains (the site of many of those mountain lion deaths)
  • 134: On either side of the 2 west of Pasadena, with the 2 itself also being bad in that area
  • 74: From Lake Elsinore to San Juan Capistrano, right across the Cleveland National Forest

You can view the map here and see what the problem areas are throughout the state.

The Road Ecology Center pulls this information from multiple sources, cross-referencing the California Highway Patrol's data with the California Roadkill Observation System (yes, that's a thing).

Last year, these incidents cost the state up to $307 million, according to the report -- that's up 11 percent from 2016. There were more than 6,600 incidents included in that total. That cost could be up to $600 million if accidents claimed to insurance companies, but not reported to police, were included.

"Animals entering roadways are often killed and pose a hazard to drivers, who may collide with the animal, or try to avoid the animal and have an accident suffering vehicle damage, injury, and even death," the report states. "In addition, animals are injured during collisions, which is damaging to the animal and potentially traumatic and deadly to drivers."

State Farm estimated that California had more than 23,000 claims in 2015-2016 -- three times that official rate. There were 268 injuries in data from the California Highway Patrol, while Caltrans logged 383, according to data in a 2018 press release.

Projects to reduce animals and cars getting in each other's way can be highly effective, according to the report -- better than any other safety project, often more than 90 percent effective. The report notes that building fencing and over/under-passes along major highways to allow wildlife to pass safely has been proven effective, as has reducing speed limits in protected wildlife habitat.

The center offered five top recommendations to fight the problem, for both those behind the wheel and the creatures crossing our roads:

  • Systematically collecting and sharing data
  • Requiring collection and analysis of what they call "wildlife-vehicle conflict" data for highway/road projects, before they're approved and funded
  • Protect driver safety and wildlife by building projects to reduce wildlife-vehicle conflict
  • Form new partnerships between groups interested in reducing wildlife-vehicle conflict and its impacts
  • Systematically evaluate the efforts to reduce wildlife-vehicle conflict

In the meantime, stay safe out there. (That message is for both our human and animal friends.)

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