Evergreen, Colorado is a unique community where mountain ecosystems merge with growing exurban communities, 30 minutes outside of Denver. Motorists exit the interstate and often continue into the unincorporated community’s main residential thoroughfare (Colorado 74) at a similar speed. Evergreen has an elk herd (250+ individuals) that meanders throughout the community, with increasing pressure from development, pushing them towards further habituation to yards, animals, humans and busy roads.
Wild Aware is a non-profit, community-based organization that grew out of the concern citizens had for the increasing number of wildlife-vehicle collisions on Colorado 74 (CO-74). In 2020, Wild Aware volunteers reached out to Colorado Department of Transportation to determine how citizens could get involved in tracking wildlife movement across the roads in the community - with the ultimate goal in mind of raising awareness and further substantiating hot spots. CDOT connected Wild Aware with RoadKill App, a Silicon Valley based technology company passionate about reducing roadside collisions.
In Summer 2022 a collaborative pilot project took place with two goals in mind: 1) To allow citizens to be involved in (safely) tracking wildlife movement and collisions throughout the community; 2) To allow RoadKill app to collaborate with concerned community members while analyzing and improving data accuracy.
The pilot program was successful in raising awareness amongst community members about WHERE the hotspots existed in this community. This panel will discuss the many lessons learned and the further work necessary to strengthen the impact and relevance of the data in future, continued or like pilot programs.
Some challenges - both anticipated and discovered through the process - include:
1. Skewed results due to self selection.
2. Wide ranging participant comfort with technology.
3. Achieving data accuracy.
4. Greater awareness of preventing roadkill by allowing the report of at risk wildlife.
Takeaways to be shared include:
1. App must remain user friendly while forcing required fields to be completed.
2. As indicated in Shilling et al.’s 2020 paper “Designing wildlife-vehicle conflict observation systems to inform ecology and transportation study” (Biological Conservation), data quality and consistency would be improved by increasing the number of ways that various users could report data (the app, email, phone calls, etc).
3. Pilot participants should be identified, committed and communicated with on a frequent basis to ensure regular participation.
4. Further collaboration should take place such as integration with CDOT, CPW and Jefferson County Road and Bridge data.
5. Species verification is a challenge given user reports only include pictures 5% of the time.
RoadkillApp must be enhanced to prevent roadkill, and allow for live animal reporting.
6. Further enhancements are needed to eliminate redundant reporting events.
7. There is a proactive opportunity to provide alerts to drivers via the app based on IoT devices and past roadkill report data.