Black Hills Wildlife Vehicle Collision Mitigation

Wildlife vehicle collisions (WVC) in South Dakota account for more than 25% of all crashes. Over 60% of these crashes occur on South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT)-administered highways. It is estimated that on average over 20,000 large ungulates are lost to vehicle collisions throughout the state each year. Previous research has identified areas with the highest WVC rates in the State of South Dakota, and of these locations the Black Hills area rates as one of the highest. To improve the safety of the traveling public and help maintain large ungulate populations in the Black Hills, SDDOT needs to identify key crossing locations and opportunities to mitigate WVC through highway structures, fencing, and other techniques. Much work has been done nationally, resulting in wildlife collision avoidance strategies ranging from human and animal behavioral-based approaches (flashing warning signs, driver education, exclusion fences, wildlife crossings) to technology-intensive deterrents (optical walls, acoustic devices, etc.). Selecting the optimal, most cost-effective approach to mitigation is an involved process relying on accurate, comprehensive assessment of site-specific wildlife, habitat and ecosystem, and traffic conditions. Research is needed to look at ways to reduce WVCs in the Black Hills through: identification of key wildlife crossing locations; creation of a methodology to evaluate mitigation needs; determination of whether existing structures can be retrofitted or included for the use of wildlife crossings; and incorporation of wildlife crossings, fencing, or other useful techniques into currently planned transportation projects that include structure, fencing and/or signing. The research objectives are to: (1) Develop a methodology to evaluate mitigation needs and options in planned construction projects. (2) Apply the methodology to one or more locations. (3) Develop guidance premised on best practices for reducing WVCs in South Dakota.