The influence of body-size and diet on road-kill trends in mammals
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- Barthelmess, E.L. & Brooks, M.S. Biodivers Conserv (2010) 19: 1611. doi:10.1007/s10531-010-9791-3
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Roads negatively impact animals in a variety of ways. One of the most obvious impacts is vehicle-induced mortality. We have little understanding of the patterns and rates of road mortality for mammals. The aims of this study were to determine representative road-kill rates for local mammal species, compare road-kill rates between mammals of different sizes and diets, and compare patterns of road mortality between seasons. We hypothesized that carnivores would be killed less often than herbivores or omnivores and that medium sized mammals (1.0–10.0 kg) would be killed more often than expected based on their frequency in the area. At least 50% of the mammal species in the study area were impacted by road mortality, representing 21 species from 5 mammalian orders. Carnivores were found less often and medium-sized mammals more often than predicted. Porcupines (Erithizon dorsatum), raccoons (Procyon lotor), cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus) and striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) were the most frequent species to be killed. On average, 3.8 mammals were killed per 100 km of road. The road-kill rate varied between seasons and species and peaked in mid June. We also looked across studies to determine general rates of vehicle-induced mortality for mammals and found that an average of 8.8 mammals are killed per 100 km. Given the rapid decline of many mammal species and the consistent increase in vehicle miles traveled, efforts to preserve roadless areas and develop strategies to mitigate the effects of roads on mammals are warranted.