By: Cholla Nicoll, BRN Wildlife Intern
One of the six wildlife cameras set up at Borderlands Wildlife Preserve monitors wildlife using the Casa Blanca Road underpass. This camera just happens to be my least favorite to check. Its location is not easy to access forcing me to either bushwhack through thick allergy-inducing foliage, or walk along the highway with the anxiety-inducing traffic reminding me that I am far smaller than a sixteen wheeler.
Frequently the reward for this effort is small, the camera images only showing a lonely raven or sunflowers blowing in the wind. Rarely though, the reward is well worth the effort giving me a glimpse into the lives of our wildlife and the daily paths chosen for survival.
Most of my rewards come from the pictures collected on an SD card. A family of turkeys who found their way to the underpass or a stealthy bobcat moving almost unseen through the creek bed. On my most recent outing, I had a rewarding in-person experience that rang home the importance of the underpass.
As I sat crouched checking the camera, a female white-tailed deer sprinted towards me from the opposite embankment headed towards the underpass. Upon seeing me she changed course and fled in the opposite direction. Seconds later her urgency was justified as a large coyote came bounding in my direction, also changing course due to my presence. They both hesitated and then deciding hunger and survival were of more importance than my presence. They took off to meet each other’s fate.
This experience left me pondering many things. If I hadn’t been there would the outcome of the chase be different? If the road hadn’t been there would the deer have had a better escape route? If the underpass hadn’t been there would there have been a car accident? I will never know the answers to these questions, but one thing I can say is that all three of us avoided the road that day.
Avoiding those heavily traveled roads can save many, many lives and wildlife underpasses and overpasses have proven to save not only animals, but also the unfortunate people whose cars encounter them.
Communities around the world are considering the lives of migrating wildlife by constructing more overpasses and underpasses. Driving less overall also saves animals' lives. As the COVID19 pandemic drags on studies are showing that tens of thousands of animals have been spared deaths on roads. The Patagonia community faces the potential for future mining traffic headed north passing directly by the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve.
More overpasses and underpasses along with making the choice to drive less will undoubtedly save lives. As the famous Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken“ says, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
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