Using GPS Telemetry to Determine Roadways Most Susceptible to Deer-vehicle Collisions

More than 1 million wildlife-vehicle collisions occur annually in the United States. The majority of these accidents involve white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and result in >US $4.6 billion in damage and >200 human fatalities. Prior research has used collision locations to assess sitespecific as well as landscape features that contribute to risk of deer-vehicle collisions. As an alternative approach, we calculated road-crossing locations from 25 GPS-instrumented white-tailed deer near Madison, Georgia (n = 154,131 hourly locations). We identified crossing locations by creating movement paths between subsequent GPS points and then intersecting the paths with road locations. Using AIC model selection, we determined whether 10 local and landscape variables were successful at identifying areas where higher frequencies of deer crossings were likely to occur. Our findings indicate that traffic volume, distance to riparian areas, and the amount of forested area influenced the frequency of road crossings. Roadways that were predominately located in wooded landscapes and 200-300 m from riparian areas were crossed frequently. Additionally, we found that areas of low traffic volume (e.g., county roads) had the highest frequencies of deer crossings. Analyses utilizing only records of deer-vehicle collision locations cannot separate the relative contribution of deer crossing rates and traffic volume. Increased frequency of road crossings by deer in low-traffic, forested areas may lead to a greater risk of deer-vehicle collision than suggested by evaluations of deer-vehicle collision frequency alone.

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