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You can help save Oregon’s wildlife during summer road trips by using your phone to — get this — photograph road kill

Mapping project aims to find priority places for safer wildlife crossings – and not just for deer, elk

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) — As Oregonians hit the road for summer fun, wildlife officials are urging them to photograph an unlikely, if not downright gross, subject: roadkill. The Beaver State has the highest rate of wildlife-vehicle collisions on the West Coast, but a new initiative aims to make the roads safer for both animals and people.

The iNaturalist Roadkills of Oregon project—a collaboration between the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Zoo—allows people to submit reports and photos of roadkill directly to state biologists. When it’s safe to do so, users can shoot, take a photo, and upload the images along with identifying information about the animals they see.

That data will be used to map death hotspots and help the state prioritize where to take action.

“To save wildlife, we need to help animals avoid roads,” said Rachel Wheat, ODFW connectivity biologist. “And to do that, we need to know where the most dangerous roads are.”

Currently, the state only tracks road fatalities involving large animals such as deer and elk. But crossings can be just as deadly for countless other species, especially along important migration routes. Every year, Oregon’s roads take the lives of hundreds of thousands of animals, from butterflies to bears. For some wildlife populations, such as Portland’s red-legged frogs, the consequences can be devastating.

To get to their breeding ponds, the frogs have to cross two roads, a highway and train tracks. As a result, their population faced a steep decline.

“Crossing structures, underpasses, canals and even simple things like strategically placed plants can save lives, both for people and wildlife,” Wheat said. “Structures can also be large and expensive, so it is essential to put them where they are most needed. This project helps us figure out where those places are.”

“Road kills are sad and dangerous — nobody wants to see wildlife like that,” said Shervin Hess, the Oregon Zoo’s conservation manager. “This project gives Oregonians a chance to be part of the solution and help make our state safer for all of us.”

To download the free app and find instructions for submitting reports, visit myodfw.com/articles/roadkills-oregon.