It’s estimated that one million vertebrates are killed on U.S. roadways each day. That’s about one every 11 seconds.
As habitats shift due to a changing climate, wildlife movement becomes an important adaptation strategy for species survival. Roads can have a big impact on endangered species, impeding their movement, separating populations, and killing individuals due to collisions with vehicles.
Maine Turtle Roadkill Survey
While turtles may move slowly, they can travel large distances and often do so every year as they move between habitats. Maine’s turtle species generally overwinter in streams, rivers, marshes, and ponds. As winter turns into spring, they emerge from their wintering sites to bask, forage, and ultimately to breed and nest before returning to their wintering grounds. Those journeys inevitably bring many turtles across roadways.
For slow-moving species like turtles, getting across a roadway alive is a real challenge. And for species that live a long time but don’t reproduce until they’re quite old (Maine’s turtle species reach breeding maturity between 7-18 years of age), losing just a few breeding adults annually can lead to a declining population, or even local extinction.
To help address this problem, beginning in 2018, citizen science volunteers are monitoring roadways around Maine to help identify which species of turtles are crossing where — and which road crossings are most hazardous to Maine’s turtles. Participants are trained in turtle species identification, road safety, and proper data collection methods. They are asked to survey routes that have been identified as sites where turtle crossings may be more likely, and to do so at least three times during the active season (May through September). At the end of this three-year project, results will be used to identify roadway segments where turtle mortality is particularly high, in order to develop mitigation strategies at these and similar sites to reduce or eliminate turtle mortality.
You can see those observations in real time by visiting the iNaturalist project page where observations are uploaded. In addition to a map of incidences of turtle roadkill, the project includes some (occasionally graphic) images of turtles and other species that did not make it successfully across the road.
Want to learn more? Here are some additional resources:
Interested in getting involved? Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for training sessions and surveys for next year.
This project is a partnership between Maine Audubon, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, and MaineDOT. It was funded in part by the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund, in which proceeds from the sale of a dedicated instant lottery ticket are used to support outdoor recreation and natural resource conservation.
Wildlife Road Watch
Wildlife Road Watch is a web-based map and database project that records volunteer observations of roadside and road-killed wildlife. Scientists use the data to improve our collective understanding of where wildlife attempt to cross roads, what we can do to reduce roadkill, and how best to improve safety for people and wildlife.
How you can help
Submit your roadside observations
- Create an account in our system to be able to submit an observation and allow us to identify observations from specific observers.
- Once you have an account, log in to the system.
- Add observations describing what you saw, pinpointing its location on the map, and even uploading your photos (if you took any).
Adopt a road
Volunteers can regularly monitor a section of road throughout the year. They document wildlife crossings, both successful (when you see a live animal on or near the road) and unsuccessful (dead animals on the road or shoulder).
For more information or to sign up to volunteer, please contact Sarah Haggerty at email@example.com or 207.781.2330 x225.
In the news
- Tracking wildlife roadkill in Maine offers a path to saving lives, Portland Press Herald
- Saving Wildlife on U.S. Roads – Volunteers Help Decipher how Motorways Affect Animals, Audubon Magazine
- Count Roadkill From Your Bike for Science, Wired.com
Wildlife Road Watch is a joint effort of Maine Audubon, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the Maine Department of Transportation, and the Road Ecology Center at UC Davis in California.