Conflicts between wildlife and human interests have increased in recent decades due to growing human populations and the resulting expansion of anthropogenic pressures into wildlife habitat. Our overall objectives were to evaluate the the potential impacts of wildlife on transportation in Indiana and vice-versa. The results presented in this final report summarize two aspects of our research: the impact of automotive traffic on wildlife (“road kill”; Part I), and the wildlife hazards present at general aviation airports around the state (“airstrike”; Part II). The road kill dataset indicated that at 13 survey routes traversing 180 linear km of road, 11,068 animals were killed by traffic. These animals included mammals, birds, reptiles, and (mostly) amphibians. GIS data indicates that nearby wetlands were typically associated with a high incidence of road kill. While road kills were detected in all months, there were obvious seasonal and weather related patterns in the data. Most road kills occurred from July through September, which was concurrent with peak temperatures and precipitation levels. We highlight a variety of animal-friendly engineering options that can be used to effectively reduce encounters between wildlife and drivers, resulting in fewer accidents and less road kill. With regard to the airstrike dataset, airport habitats consisted mainly of short grass (40.2% of total airport area), soybean fields (10.3%), corn fields (9.5%), runway systems (8.1%), other development (6.6%), woodlots (5.2%), medium grass (4.8%), tall grass (4.6%), and hayfields (3.2%). At least two types of wildlife attractants were present at each airport property, and the most common wildlife attractants included standing water (ephemeral), open culverts, crop fields, woodlot refugia, and gravel piles. Proportion of airport perimeters fenced ranged from 7.5% to 100%, but most airport perimeters were >40% fenced. Most airports with >25% of the perimeter enclosed by chain-link fencing had 0.2-0.5 openings per 100 m of fence, with gaps and dig-holes being the most common openings. Considering the most hazardous species, 0-92 white-tailed deer and 0-28 coyotes were observed at individual airports combining all survey methods across a year. Of 16 bird species groups identified as hazardous to aircraft, American kestrel, blackbirds-starling, crows-ravens, mourning dove, shorebirds, sparrows, and swallows were present at 9-10 of the airport properties; geese, hawks (buteos), and vultures were present at 7-8 of the airport properties; and ducks, herons, and rock doves were present at 5-6. Questionnaires indicated that pilots using focal airports were accustomed to wildlife hazards: 69% of respondents reported that they had altered aircraft operation due to wildlife within the past year, and 25% reported involvement in a wildlife strike during the past year. Furthermore, 88% of respondents felt that wildlife populations at Indiana airports were at least “somewhat hazardous”. Despite pilots’ awareness of wildlife hazards, less than 70% of respondents supported the use of fencing or wildlife deterrents, 43% supported modification/elimination of wildlife habitat, and only 38% of respondents supported for lethal removal of wildlife on airport properties. Hazards associated with deer and coyotes can be alleviated by installing suitable fencing; for airports with extant fences, care should be taken to monitor fences regularly and repair gaps as soon as they are discovered. Presence of deer and coyotes inside airport fences should not be tolerated. Birds are best managed by maintaining airport habitats in a manner that minimizes availability and/or quality of food, water, cover, and loafing sites for hazardous species. Furthermore, several new technologies and refinements in techniques for wildlife damage management at airports have emerged recently and may benefit small airports, such as advancements in electric fencing and the use of dead bird effigies to repel some hazardous bird species.

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wildlife, transportation, airstrike, roadkill, vertebrate, human/wildlife conflict, SPR-2925

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Performing Organization

Joint Transportation Research Program

Publisher Place

West Lafayette, IN

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