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Boise State Public Radio News is here to keep you current on the news surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Coronavirus Shutdown Good News For Wild Animals In Idaho

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The coronavirus has meant fewer cars on roadways. And a new study says this may be giving some animals a break on Idaho’s roads.

 

In 2019, 35 deer and elk were hit by cars on a 12-mile stretch of Idaho Highway 21 northeast of Boise. So many animals die there, that Idaho Fish and Game tracks the collisions on its website.

Since the start of the statewide stay-at-home order, traffic on Idaho’s roads has been down 63%. And without all those cars, large animals are getting a break. 

“We see the reported collisions in Idaho per day went from 8.7 to 5.4 after the order, so nine to about five,” said Fraser Shilling, Director of the University of California Davis Road Ecology Center.

 

The school studied traffic and collision data from three states: California, Maine and Idaho. It found fewer cars meant a decline in the number of animals being hit. And that’s just the reported cases. 

“For each deer or bear or something else that’s collided with and somebody makes a report, there’s five to nine others that weren’t reported,” Shilling said.

Add that up and something like 22,650 large mammals die on Idaho roads each year. But if regular traffic was more like it was during the coronavirus stay-at-home order, 8,607 could be saved. Not to mention the savings in car damage, human injuries and emergency response.

Shilling said the study confirms what seems obvious, that fewer cars means fewer animal collisions. But confirming that with real numbers can help people and agencies slow those collisions now and in the future.

“So maybe the next generation can look at some of these silver linings that we’ve had, these benefits from reduced traffic and make different decisions about transportation.”

Shilling says since Idaho started reopening, traffic levels are back up to two-third of pre-coronavirus numbers.

 
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