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Evaluation of a wildlife underpass on Vermont State Highway 289 in Essex, Vermont

  • Author(s): Austin, John M.;
  • Garland, Larry
  • et al.

State Highway 289 (a.k.a. circumferential highway) in Essex, Vermont, was constructed in 1993 as a means of shifting growing traffic volumes in the area around Burlington, Vermont, to reduce traffic congestion in some areas. This highway bisects streams, wetlands, upland and deer winter habitats important for the survival of area wildlife such as white-tailed deer, beaver, mink and otter. A divided concrete underpass was installed under the highway to accommodate an existing stream channel on one side and wildlife passage on the other. The underpass was located along the stream to connect wetland habitat that exists both up and down stream from the structure thereby facilitating the movement of wildlife and related ecological processes across the road. This project evaluates the use of this structure by wildlife. We used trailmaster infra-red monitoring and photography equipment and track beds to document the use of the underpass by wildlife. This technology allowed us to determine what species were using the underpass, the time of year they used the structure, the time of day, the direction of movement, and how frequently the structure was used. Based on the results of this project, it appears that the diversity of wildlife using this structure is limited, but raccoons and mink use the underpass frequently. Further, underpass design, substrate, vegetation near entrances, and other parameters may be limiting the ability of wildlife to use the structure for moving across the roadway.

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