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Keeping It Simple: Easy Ways to Help Wildlife Along Roads

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Catching a Snake with Bare Hands

close-up of an Eastern racer snake

"Grab first, think later." That's what an expert herpetologist advised the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) to do when two fast-moving, non-poisonous Eastern racers showed up on agency property in 2004. Eastern racers hadn't been seen in the State (the northernmost fringe of their range) for 30 years. The species is large (5 to more than 6 feet long), but a bite from its tiny teeth hurts less than the sting from a blackberry bush. To learn how the snakes moved on and used the property, VTrans launched a research project with the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife and Middlebury College. Spotting and catching the snakes onsite was a group effort. The researchers walked slowly and close together, scanning the flat terrain. As one snake made its move, one "fast" person grabbed it; several others helped put it into a dark pillowcase so it could be measured (and so it could calm down). The process was repeated with a second snake. After a volunteer veterinarian had inserted chapstick-sized transmitters into the racers' body cavities, the snakes were released back onto the property. Monitoring revealed the snakes moved a lot on the property and used it for foraging, basking, hunting, and travel--facts VTrans has used on easy-to-create snake-friendly habitats. And the transmitter-outfitted snakes also led researchers to a far-off den of six other adult racers--enough for a breeding population.

Chris Slesar, (802) 828-5743 or chris.slesar@state.vt.us



Picture of various animals

Doing the right thing - simply

"Keeping it simple" is more than a concept. It's a commitment.

It means using simple solutions when simple solutions will work.

It involves going beyond "compliance" to identify easy ways of helping wildlife and fish.

It means doing the right thing just because it's the right thing to do and because one has an opportunity to do it.

"We can build bat roosts in pre-fab bridge concrete or extend the right-of-way fence to create elkproof fencing," says April Marchese, Director of FHWA's Office of Natural and Human Environment. "Simple measures like these link habitats, reduce roadkill, and save taxpayer dollars."

This website highlights more than 100 simple, successful projects from all 50 states and beyond. Each is "easy." Most are low- or no-cost. All benefit wildlife, fish, or their habitats.

Many projects were completed only once - to protect specific species in specific environmental conditions. Others have been repeated numerous times and have become "routine."

Some projects are undertaken regularly because research has proven them effective. Others are new innovations, "best practices," or state-of-the-art strategies.

Some projects - for example, modifying mowing cycles and installing oversized culverts in streams - are common to a large number of states. Others represent a simple solution to a site-specific environmental challenge.

We invite you to explore them all. We encourage you to find out for yourselves, through this website, how transportation professionals are working with others to do the right thing for wildlife and--wherever possible--to do it "simply."

Updated: 12/12/2012
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