• barrier effect;
  • random walk;
  • road ecology;
  • Sistrurus catenatus;
  • snake;
  • Terrapene;
  • turtle


Roads can act as barriers to animal movement through mortality during crossing attempts or behavioral avoidance. This barrier effect has negative demographic and genetic consequences that can ultimately result in local or regional extinction. Here we use radio-telemetry data on three terrestrial vertebrates (eastern massasauga Sistrurus catenatus, eastern box turtle Terrapene carolina and ornate box turtle Terrapene ornata) to test whether roads acted as barriers to movement. Specifically, we test whether individuals avoided crossing roads by comparing the number of observed crossings with the number of road crossings predicted by randomizations of individual movement paths. All species crossed roads significantly less often than predicted by chance, indicating strong road avoidance. Results of this study showing behavioral avoidance and previous studies on road mortality indicate that roads are strong barriers to these species. High mortality during crossing attempts would select for road avoidance, reducing the number of individuals killed on roads over time but leading to genetically partitioned subpopulations due to a lack of gene flow. In species that are long-lived and late-maturing, negative genetic effects might not be observable over short time-scales, thus placing populations at high risk of extinction because of a failure to detect an incrementally worsening problem. Formulating successful management strategies for many species in decline will require integrating data on road mortality, animal behavior and population genetics in order to understand more clearly the barrier effect of roads.