This roadkill map says a lot about California’s drought

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California’s drought is taking a toll on the state’s wildlife. Not a huge surprise, given that the widespread dry spell is beating up just about everything, save aiding a resurgence in gold-panning and an increase in wine alcohol content. (Three cheers for the drought! No? Too soon. OK.) What’s more surprising than the drought’s effect on wildlife, though, is one way some researchers are observing it: by mapping roadkill across the state.

According to a recent article in Vox, the un-peer-reviewed observations of UC Davis professor Fraser Shilling, who operates the state’s largest roadkill monitoring system, show that there was a spike in roadkill numbers in the drought’s early stages. Shilling suspects this is because animals were roaming in search of food and water.

But, Vox reported, Shilling’s recent data showed an opposite trend: Roadkill numbers are decreasing because — yep, you guessed it — there are simply fewer critters overall.

It’s sad, I know. But get all your cries out now so you can pay attention, because Shilling and his team have gleaned a few other interesting tidbits about the state’s animals by tracking its dead ones. For instance, by pinpointing flattened animals, researchers can see the regions where different species are most abundant, track the spread of invasive species, and identify wildlife corridors that are going unused.

You can see for yourselves on the interactive map powered by California Roadkill Observation System, which shows where amphibians, birds, mammals, and reptiles have been struck in the past 90 days. It’s volunteer-powered, so if you’re a Californian with wheels, you can help the researchers by submitting any of your own, erm, hits.

But, note: If you want to help both the climate and all those thirsty Californian critters, it may be best just not to drive at all.

2 thoughts on “This roadkill map says a lot about California’s drought

  1. Our love affair with the car and other vehicles has deadly consequences, which there is not much concern about–unless the car is damaged as it mows down a living being. Unfortunately, this part of our culture is spreading. There are many new people in this area from other countries, and the first thing they buy is one of the biggest SUVs or vans on the lot. The demand is similar in India and China and virtually everywhere else. Vehicles, especially the big ones, are status symbols. The issue of road kill should be discussed more often with wildlife corridors encouraged. There is another issue going on that is also disturbing–that is the use of snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, which some people use to run down wildlife (and tear up the land). Another new and deadly recreation on our long record of killing.

    • It’s worrisome – you can see that most people aren’t concerned about wildlife in the least while they are driving, especially when they are on a cell phone also. What kind of undisciplined jerk has to text while driving and can’t wait? You can’t imagine how often this happens. All-terrain vehicles I despise – too much noise and damage to the landscape, and sneaking around where they shouldn’t be using them. God help anyone or anything in their way. A good use for a cell phone, though, to call the authorities on them. 🙂

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