Will You See Wildlife Crossings on Your Vacation?
By Trisha White
It is now officially summer and that means many Americans are packing up the family truckster like the Griswolds and taking the tribe cross country. Whether you're on your way to America's favorite family fun park or a national park, staying in a motel or sleeping under the stars, you may be seeing wildlife in their native habitat. And if you keep your eyes open, you might see a special part of our built environment ー a wildlife crossing.
What is a wildlife crossing?
Wildlife crossings are clever, man-made structures built over or under highways that allow animals to cross the roadway without having to enter the right of way, preventing deadly accidents. In addition to preventing wildlife-vehicle collisions, they reconnect habitat that has been carved up by roads, allowing animals to move safely around their habitat.
Unless you know where to look, you might not even notice them. Crossings may seem like a regular overpass or underpass from the road, but they have vegetation and other habitat features to make them more inviting for animals.
Which wildlife species use wildlife crossings?
Wildlife crossings help many different species, from muskrats to mountain lions ─ and yes, even Marty Moose! (The moosiest moose we know…)
Since animals can be picky about what kinds of structures they will use, crossings are specifically designed to fit snugly into the landscape around them, and are custom made for the species that will use them. Some critters that are more adaptable, like coyote and deer, will take to crossings right away, while others may take longer to get used to them. After all, the crossings are a new experience for them and can be scary at first.
Biologists believe each species' preferences are based on their environment and how they evolved. For example, ungulates with antlers (deer, elk, moose) prefer open structures like an overpass. Smaller animals that are used to more cover are more comfortable in small crossings like a culvert. Eventually mother animals teach their young to use them, passing along the intergenerational knowledge just like other behaviors.
Where can we see a wildlife crossing?
Although wildlife crossings are relatively new to the U.S., we have them from coast to coast. Here are just a few examples you might see this summer near popular destinations:
The Montana 93 overpass.
Are you motoring through the many mountains of Montana? Drive U.S. Highway 93 across the Flathead Indian Reservation to see the most extensive wildlife-sensitive highway design effort in the U.S. to date. A whopping 81 wildlife crossing structures were built over a 76-mile stretch of highway, keeping 25 species safe, such as elk, mountain lions, bobcats, badgers, grizzlies and black bears.
Maryland State Highway Administration
On your way to the beach, you may choose the 18-mile Intercounty Connector (ICC). Opened in 2011, the ICC has ten underpasses providing safe passage for deer, foxes, raccoons, groundhogs, skunks, snakes and great blue herons.
Wildlife in La-La Land? You bet! While you're stuck in traffic on the 405, wildlife will be cruising along the 31-mile stretch of the Puente-Chino Hills Wildlife corridor. Along the way, they will pass through the Harbor Boulevard Wildlife Underpass, connecting 4,600 acres of protected habitat to the west with 14,000 acres to the east. Built in 2006, the underpass serves mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, squirrels, opossum, raccoons and jackrabbits. Without it, many of these species would have been trapped on the west side of Harbor Boulevard and possibly extirpated.
So after you drop off Aunt Edna in Phoenix, skip the house of mud and learn more about keeping wildlife on the move while you're waiting in line at the world's second largest ball of twine. Have a great summer!
Is your family taking a road trip this summer? While you drive on the highway, wildlife may be safely crossing above or below you! Keep an eye out for these structures: https://t.co/VKlYLB9JrU #wildlifecrossing pic.twitter.com/jOG6aWprHQ— National Wildlife Federation (@NWF) August 14, 2019
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It's going to be back-to-school time soon, but will children go into the classrooms?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks so, but only as long as safety measures are in place.
Keeping Schools Safe<p>What will safer schools look like?</p><p>In a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2766822" target="_blank">JAMA article</a> published last month, <a href="https://www.jhsph.edu/faculty/directory/profile/1781/joshua-m-sharfstein" target="_blank">Dr. Joshua Sharfstein</a>, a pediatrician and professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, outlined suggestions — many of which are similar to AAP's.</p><p>Remote learning protocols must stay in place, especially as some schools stagger home and in-building learning. If another shutdown needs to occur, children will rely on distance learning completely, so it must be easy to switch to, he said.</p><p>He suggested giving parents a daily checklist to document their child's health. Kids should be screened quickly on arrival and be given hygiene supplies. Maintenance staff should use appropriate PPE and have regular cleaning schedules. A notification system should be in place if a case is identified, Sharfstein recommended.</p><p><a href="https://www.albany.edu/rockefeller/faculty/erika-martin" target="_blank">Erika Martin</a>, PhD, an associate professor of public administration and policy at University at Albany, said nutrition assistance and health services should be included. She called for tutoring programs with virtual options as well as technology access.</p>
Supporting Staff<p>Teachers and staff will be affected by safeguarding measures, noted <a href="https://directory.sph.umn.edu/bio/sph-a-z/rachel-widome" target="_blank">Rachel Widome</a>, PhD, an associate professor of epidemiology and community health at University of Minnesota.</p><p>"In order for all of the in-school precautions to work well, we'll be asking a lot of teachers and staff," Widome told Healthline. In addition to their usual workload, they'll now be asked to monitor mask-wearing, ensure children are keeping distance, and be aware of any symptoms.</p><p>Along with Sharfstein, Widome called for an increase in financial support. More employees will likely be required so teachers and staff members can keep up with the added demands.</p>
Should Kids Go Back?<p>While these guidelines may help get some schools to reopen, many people don't think children should go back to school over fears they could contract the disease and spread it to other vulnerable family members like grandparents, infant siblings, or their parents.</p><p>In a <a href="https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879" target="_blank">Pediatrics</a> commentary, <a href="https://www.md.com/doctor/william-raszka-md" target="_blank">Dr. William V. Raszka, Jr.</a>, an infectious disease specialist at The University of Vermont Medical Center, argued that schools should open because school-aged children are far less important drivers of COVID-19 than adults.</p><p>But he says the risk and benefit is not equal among all students ages 5 to 18.</p><p>"Elementary schools are arguably higher priority for face-to-face schooling, since younger children are at lower risk for infection and transmission, and since parental supervision of younger children's distance learning may be particularly challenging," added Sorensen, who penned a <a href="https://jamanetwork.com/channels/health-forum/fullarticle/2767411" target="_blank">June article in JAMA</a> with reopening tips. "That means middle and high schools are more likely to emphasize distance learning."</p><p>Specific student populations, such as special education students and students with disabilities, would also benefit greatly from more time spent in face-to-face environments, Sorensen said.</p>
What Parents Can Do<p>Parents should ask for and receive frequent updates from schools about plans for the fall. They should also be informed about plans if and when COVID infections are identified, Sharfstein said.</p><p>"I'd like to see parents investing now, during the summer, in doing things that can slow and stop the spread of the virus in their communities," Widome said.</p><p>"Now is a good time for kids to practice wearing masks and get used to them as they may be wearing them for longer stretches if school starts up in person," Widome suggested.</p><p>She recommends parents try different mask designs and materials to see what children are more comfortable wearing.</p><p>"If you are using cloth face coverings, it's good to have extras on hand," Widome added.</p><p>Parents should model healthy behavior at home and while out in public — another thing that could affect how well children adapt to reopening practices, Sorensen said.</p><p>"Children may want to know more about face coverings," added <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/leescott/" target="_blank">Lee Scott</a>, chairwoman of the Educational Advisory Board at <a href="https://www.goddardschool.com/" target="_blank">The Goddard School</a>. "Dramatic play, such as creating or wearing a face covering, may help some children adjust to this concept." Schools can also show children photos of what faculty members look like in their masks so the students are familiar with that appearance.</p><p>Johns Hopkins University recently released its eSchool+ Initiative, a slew of resources surrounding education during the pandemic. These include a <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-checklist/" target="_blank">checklist for administrators</a>, report on <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/ethics-of-reopening/" target="_blank">ethical considerations</a>, and a tracker of <a href="https://equityschoolplus.jhu.edu/reopening-policy-tracker/" target="_blank">state and local reopening plans</a>.</p>
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