By YUUKI REAL, age 13
Roadkill claims lives of an estimated one million wild animals every day in the United States, according to the Humane Society. The problem is especially devastating for endangered species, since even a few deaths can push them toward extinction. For example, in 2012 in South Florida, 19 Florida panthers were killed on the road, out of 100 to 160 cats currently left in the wild.
Road collisions also cause problems for humans in the form of injuries and expensive damage to vehicles and property. In fact, Americans spend about $8 billion each year on vehicle-animal collisions. One solution to this problem is to build wildlife crossings, special bridges and tunnels that go over and under highways allowing animals to safely cross to the other side. Ted Zoli, a bridge engineer, estimates that if we took just a quarter of the collision costs and used the money to build 200 animal crossings a year, the problem of road kill would disappear within a generation.
In the Netherlands, more than 600 tunnels have been installed, helping to save the endangered European badger. Wildlife crossings are also becoming more common in the United States and Canada, increasing bear, moose, deer, wolf and elk populations, as well as others.
In Southern Florida, wildlife underpasses were first installed in the 1980s. Matthew Schwartz, executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association, is a supporter of the wildlife underpass for Florida panthers. According to Schwartz, road collisions are the main cause of death for the panthers, coupled with the dramatic loss of habitat due to new construction projects and land development. In an interview with IndyKids, Schwartz explained, “What’s most important is not to develop panther habitats [for human use] any more.”
Journalist Note: I would like to give special thanks to Matthew Schwartz for generously donating his time explaining to me the current situation of Florida panthers.