One positive impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was a reduction in the number of wildlife killed on Idaho highways, the University of California-Davis’ Road Ecology Center stated in a report published Thursday.
The report addressed large wildlife collisions in three states—California, Idaho and Maine, comparing the number of animals found dead on state highways or involved in a collision reported to emergency response in the four-week period prior to issuance of each state’s stay-at-home orders with the number killed in the four-week period after those orders went into effect.
Wildlife included were mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, elk, black bears, coyotes and mountain lions.
Traffic on all roads in Idaho decreased up to 63 percent during the study period. Before stay-at-home orders, 8.7 large wild animals were killed daily by vehicles in Idaho. After the order, the number fell 38 percent to 5.4 animals per day.
Reported vehicle-wildlife collisions dropped by 21 percent in California and 45 percent in Maine.
The study stated that the three states were chosen because they have advanced systems for tracking wildlife-vehicle conflict. Even so, it stated, an important caveat to keep in mind is that vehicle-wildlife collisions can be under-reported by five- to nine-fold.
“Given the five- to nine-fold underreporting of large animals involved in collisions with vehicles and the lack of systematic reporting of smaller animals killed on roads, the positive impacts we report are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg of reduced deaths of wildlife on U.S. roads and highways,” the report stated.