Evaluation of the effects of a highway improvement project on Key deer
Braden, Anthony Wayne
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Deer-vehicle collisions (DVCs) along a 5.6-km segment of United States Highway 1 (US 1) on Big Pine Key (BPK), Florida responsible for approximately 26% of endangered Florida Key deer (Odocoileus virginianus clavium) annual mortalities. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) constructed a 2.6-km long system of fencing, 2 underpasses, and 4 experimental deer guards to address DVCs along a portion of the US 1 roadway in 2001??????2002. I evaluated the effectiveness of the project in reducing Key deer mortality by comparing (1) survival of radio-collared deer, (2) deer-vehicle collisions on US 1, and (3) determining the ability of deer to access the fenced segment. I found no significant difference in male or female survival. Key deer-vehicle collisions were reduced by 83??????92% inside the fenced segment. However, overall US 1 Key deer-vehicle collisions did not change. Key deer entry into the fenced segment was minimized to 8 deer during the first-year resulting in 2 deer mortalities. I also assessed the potential impacts of the US 1 corridor project to Key deer movements by comparing (1) radio-collared Key deer annual ranges (2) radio-collared deer corridor movements, and (3) assessing Key deer underpass and corridor use. Female and male ranges and core areas did not change (P > 0.05). Deer movements within the US 1 corridor were comparable pre- (6 of 23 radio-collared deer crossed the corridor) and post-project (4 of 16). Infrared-triggered camera data indicate underpass movements increased over time. Collectively, post-project telemetry and camera data indicates US 1 highway improvements have not restricted Key deer movements. Hourly Key deer movement and US 1 traffic patterns were compared to annual US 1 DVCs. Hourly deer movements showed a positive correlation (P = 0.012, r = 0.505) to hourly DVCs for the full circadian period. Hourly US 1 traffic showed a significant positive relationship (P = 0.012, r = 0.787) with DVCs only during the night period. Evaluation of hourly deer movements and hourly traffic volume on US 1 found hourly DVCs to be the result of a combination between both variables.