Date of Award

8-2014

Degree Name

MS in Biological Sciences

Department

Biological Sciences

Advisor

John D. Perrine

Abstract

Roads can negatively impact the survival of wildlife populations through additional mortality from road kill and population fragmentation caused by road avoidance behaviors. The 11.9 mile section of State Route 101 between the towns of San Luis Obispo and Atascadero, CA, USA, cross a mountain lion movement corridor and an area important to maintaining ecological connectivity between protected lands in the Los Padres National Forest to the north and south.

I examined the spatial patterns and landscape and roadway factors associated with road kill occurrence for six taxa; large mammals, mesocarnivores, squirrels, rabbits, birds and raptors. Between 1 May 2009 and 30 June 2010 road kills were documented using vehicle-based surveys.

Small mammals were the most common road kill (58.3%), followed by mesocarnivores (10.9%), birds (10.6%), rabbits (5.1%), large mammals (3.3%) and raptors (3.2%). Twenty-nine large mammal road kills were observed during the survey period; eighteen mule deer, six black bears and five feral pigs. Road kill was highest in the middle of the survey area between the top of Cuesta Grade and the southern edge of Atascadero and lowest along the Cuesta Grade. I modeled road kill occurrence using logistic regression to determine which landscape and roadway characteristics were associated with road kill locations. Large mammal and mesocarnivore road kills were more likely to occur near riparian corridors. Mesocarnivore and squirrel road kills were associated with locations with greater roadside tree cover. Squirrel and rabbit road kills were more likely to occur along sections of the road with large grassy center medians.

I documented animal activity patterns around the roadway during three survey periods (summer 2009, fall 2009 and spring 2010) using remote cameras placed on game trails and underpasses along the roadway. Mule deer displayed crepuscular activity patterns with peaks in activity in the morning between 05:00h and 07:00h and in the evening between 16:00h and 18:00h. Mesocarnivores generally displayed a nocturnal activity patterns with the majority of activity occurring between 18:00h and 06:00h. I used logistic regression to determine if there was a relationship between animal activity patterns and traffic patterns while controlling for time of day, day of the week, and season. Mule deer and mesocarnivore activity patterns varied significantly by time of day and mule deer activity also varied significantly by season; however only mesocarnivore activity varied significantly in relation to traffic volume suggesting that mesocarnivores are less activity when traffic volume is high. Using traffic volume and animal activity patterns I calculated a collision potential value for both mule deer and mesocarnivores. Collision potential for mule deer was high in the morning, between 06:00h and 08:00h, and in the evening, between 16:00h and 18:00h in all three seasons. Collision potential for mesocarnivores was high in the evening in fall 2009 (18:00h and 21:00) and spring 2010 (17:00h), and high in the morning in summer 2009 (09:00h).

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