Some mornings, as I roll out of bed and check my email, I’m greeted with this message glaring up at me from the screen:

This means that someone had a rough night, and I get to figure out why. 

The GPS collars we deploy each season provide us with movement data, habitat use data, and more; but the last and final bit of information a collar can give us is time of death. We just spent all winter putting out collars. Many (wo)man-hours and resources went into capturing each deer. And even though a mortality event provides its own data, I want these deer to give us plenty of GPS locations, to stay alive, and to make good choices!

These are…not good choices.

With roadkill already on my mind, Jeannine sent me a study that looked at 300,000 roadkill deer locations collected across 13 years on Pennsylvania highways. The collision locations were not random, but rather aggregated in certain areas. Why would multiple deer be hit along one stretch of highway every year, while few or no deer were hit less than a mile away?

To answer this question, researchers looked at the characteristics of roadkill deer locations from two-lane highways in Centre, Clarion, Huntingdon, and Schuylkill counties. Stretches of highways were identified as “high-kill” or “low-kill”. Then data were collected on the characteristics of each stretch of highway comparing the high-kill and low-kill sites.

Which factors predict a high-kill stretch of road? Mostly the things you’d expect – nearby woodland edges, few residential or commercial buildings, no fences to block deer, and low visibility due to road curvature or vegetation.  

These results, though pretty intuitive, made me laugh. It’s almost as if the authors were describing Potter County and the area around the Susquehannock State Forest! Curving roads? Check. Forest running right up the road edge? Check. Few buildings? Check.

So, Pennsylvania drivers, be careful out there especially between dusk and dawn. Let’s see if we can’t keep these deer alive at least until hunting season, okay? I don’t want to wake up to another red mortality message.

And to the deer, please make good choices.

-Amanda Zak
Northern Field Crew Leader
Game Commission Deer and Elk Section

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