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Keywords:

  • Cervus elaphus;
  • elk;
  • mitigation;
  • permeability;
  • roads;
  • traffic;
  • ungulates;
  • ungulate-vehicle collisions;
  • video surveillance;
  • wildlife underpasses

ABSTRACT  We used video surveillance at 4 wildlife underpasses along 27 km of Arizona State Route 260, USA, to monitor elk (Cervus elaphus) responses to traffic volume and traffic type during underpass use. Passage rates at the highest traffic category (>10–27 vehicles/min) were not lower than passage rates when no vehicles were present, whereas passage rates at low, intermittent traffic volume (>0–1 vehicles/min) were 15% lower. Once elk entered an underpass, semi-trailer trucks were 4 times more likely than passenger vehicles to cause flight behavior when traffic levels were intermittent versus when traffic was continuous. Overall, traffic volumes of >10–27 vehicles per minute did not decrease the effectiveness of wildlife underpasses as a means of mitigating elk population subdivision. However, if flight away from underpasses at intermediate traffic levels causes elk to cross the highway at other points and thereby increases the potential for costly elk-vehicle collisions, we recommend that managers consider measures to reduce traffic noise and visual stimuli, especially those caused by semi-trailer trucks.