Safeguarding wild animals and vehicles on the main roads of Lithuania: an assessment of the effectiveness of measures

Over the last five years, an average of 2–3 wild mammal individuals have been killed daily for every 100 km of main road in Lithuania. In total, 30 accidents involving wild mammals have resulted in injury or death to people. Forecasts indicate that the number of serious wildlife-vehicle accidents in the country will reach 2500 in 2016. Of particular concern is the fact that the number of WVA involving large mammals, such as moose, is increasing by the fastest rate. In response to this, we assessed the effectiveness of WVA prevention measures (wildlife fencing, underpasses, deer guards and jumpouts) from March 2014 till March 2015. This was first such case study for the country. We used data from wildlife cameras and animal footprint registration, roadkill registration and statistical data from the Register of administrative law offenses and traffic accidents. Seasonal and temporal dynamics of wildlife-vehicle accidents were re-evaluated, identifying the highest activity periods for the main game species.

We confirmed that wildlife fencing significantly reduced the number of wildlife-vehicle accidents and our calculation reviewed that the presence of wildlife fencing prevented 300 wildlife-vehicle accidents on the main roads of Lithuania in the course of 2009–2014. The most successful preventive impact was that of the wildlife fencing along the E85 main road, a 311 km long section Vilnius–Kaunas–Klaipėda (the number of accidents was reduced by 160) and the E272, a 136 km long section Vilnius–Panevėžys (the number of accidents was reduced by 112). The effectiveness of the wildlife fences was reduced by insufficient maintenance (gaps in the fence, open gates, etc). Short-span and fragmented wildlife fences were not effective (ungulates accessed the roads through gaps in the wildlife fences and/or around their ends). Deer guards were effective in stopping ungulates (roe deer and wild boar), but their effectiveness in the case of smaller wild mammals, such as carnivores and hares, was insufficient. We were unable to confirm if jumpouts were utilized. In the course of one year, 372 individuals of 15 mammal species were registered successfully using underground passages. It was found that ungulate mammals (including moose and red deer) mostly used recently-built underground passages with large cross-sectional areas. Underground passages with multiple use were less suitable for wildlife and the effectiveness of underground passages was reduced by insufficient maintenance.

Recommendations for increasing the effectiveness of measures to reduce WVA were prepared, including physical means to promote safer road crossings for mammals along the main roads and for increasing public awareness with the view to again reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle accidents.

mitigation measures; mammals; Lithuania