New Utah roadkill app hopes to improve human and animal roadway safety
SALT LAKE CITY — So far this year over 5,000 cars have collided with Utah wildlife. Oh deer.
Utah’s roadkill experts say the actual number of collisions is likely twice as high because many incidents aren’t reported. To help collect data — and to help clear animal carcasses — Utah Department of Transportation and Division of Wildlife Resources have released a new app: the Utah Roadkill Reporter.
It’s free of course in both Google Play and Apple app stores and available now. It uses GPS tracking and also requires users to sign in with Google or Facebook and asks for a phone number. When a citizen opens the app it’s Google map with a “+ Report” button and, if GPS is allowed, a map with the phone’s current location.
The reporting process is really a good-citizen initiative. UDOT and DWR said getting animals off of roads will improve safety but the data could also help animals.
“It is important for us to understand how many wildlife-vehicle collisions occur in Utah,” DWR Utah Migration Initiative Coordinator Blair Stringham said. “This new app will allow us to know exactly when and where collisions occur, which will help us identify hot spot areas on Utah highways. We can then work with UDOT and other partners to install underpasses, fencing, wildlife overpasses and other structures to reduce collisions in those areas and keep wildlife and people safe.”
The app is expected to provide data about where migration patterns of animal species take place in Utah as part of the Utah Wildlife Migration Initiative that tracks and studies wildlife and fish in the state.
Most of that data comes from animals wearing GPS trackers or fish tagged with transmitters, so the more the app is used, the more data will be available to study.
Matt Howard, UDOT’s natural resource manager said:
The new app will make it easier for the public to use and will give us more and better information to guide future mitigation efforts.
Deer make up a vast majority of reported car and animal incidents with 4,900 car collisions reported this year according to UDOT and DWR. Elk have 166 reports and 20 more have been reported with moose. Smaller animals are struck by cars and killed too and include birds, raccoons, coyotes, squirrels, and rabbits. Such collisions are stressful and even dangerous for humans, but are almost always worse for animals.
The app asks the user to set a location and then asks for more information like its species and if it can be determined, sex and age. Users are also able to submit a photo, thought UDOT and DWR strongly recommend never using the app while driving and urge people to stay in their cars for their personal safety. There are tabs on the app that allow the reporting of amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles.
If it isn’t safe to stop, the app can be used to report later, using mile markers to report locations. There is also a phone number to call, 801.799.3000, if there is a live animal that needs assistance. Anyone who is injured in a collision is urged to call 911.
DWR has tips to avoid wildlife collisions:
- Be especially alert at dawn and dusk.
- Heed wildlife crossing signs. These signs are usually placed in areas known to have a high volume of wildlife/vehicle collisions.
- Be alert on roadways near wooded, agricultural and wetland areas and also near lakes and streams.
- Scan both sides of the road as you drive. Invite passengers to help watch for wildlife.
- Do not drive distracted. Put away food, phones and other distractions.
- When possible, use high-beam headlights to better illuminate the road.
- Look for an animal’s eyeshine, which can be seen from a distance. Slow down once you have spotted an animal near the roadside.
- Some animals travel in groups, so be sure to watch for additional animals if you see one.
- Do not throw trash out of your vehicle. Not only are there penalties for littering on a highway, but trash and food scraps can also draw animals to roadways.
After a roadkill report is made, and the data shared by UDOT and DWR, it is intended to help clear roadways quickly and tracks carcasses that have been picked up as well as routes completed by contractors.
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