Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Kieran Lindsey

Kieran Lindsey | Jun 23, 2016

Roads are a nation's circulation system, the arteries through which humans, vehicles, goods, and services flow.

At the same time, roads also create significant barriers to movement. As any pedestrian attempting to cross a busy thoroughfare can attest the critical question is not WHY the chicken (or turtle, or deer) crossed the road, but HOW.

People aren’t the only animals who need to get from one place to another—many species of wildlife undertake epic journeys during seasonal migrations, and most need to move around to accomplish mundane daily activities like building a home, shopping for groceries, or leaving Mom and Dad to find a home of one’s own. In this rapidly urbanizing world getting from just about any Point A to Point B involves roads and dancing in traffic.

What can be done when our furry, feathery, scaly, slippery neighbors refuse to use a crosswalk?

We can build a bridge...

A dedicated lane in Australia helps Fallow deer move along.

There are no deer species native to Australia; Fallow deer were introduced for hunting. (CECHR, University of Dundee)

We can offer a tunnel...

Massachusetts uses special tunnels to replaced springtime human “bucket brigades” that used to ferry salamanders migrating to spawning grounds across roads.

The Amherst tunnel (Left, Noah Charney) and the Princeton tunnel (Right, Scott Jackson)

Of course, a bigger animal is going to need a bigger tunnel.

 Bear tunnel in Banff National Park (highwaywilding.org)

We can make the critters more visible...

In 2014, the RHA tested two types of reflective paint on 20 reindeer—one for the fur that washes away over time, and a permanent coating for the antlers (although, unlike horns, antlers are shed annually so “permanent” does not mean a once-per-lifetime application).Want to know more about this creative approach? Read this.

Who needs a disco-ball? (Reindeer Herders’ Association of Finland)

We can use lights, words and pictures to get drivers' attention...

Recent research from the University of Florida suggests that picture-based signs are better attention getters than words alone. But adding lights to a word/picture combo can boost the effectiveness of the sign by up to 80 percent.

Sometimes it’s better not to look too closely...

Sure, birds and bees do it, but not as a roadside attraction!

Occasionally, the creatures take matters into their own paws….

Squirrels and chipmunks often use power lines as make-shift bridges over busy streets.

"What's the weight limit on this bridge?"

And sometimes we just have to wait our turn...

Red land crabs (Gecarcinus laterals) on Christmas Island embark on their annual journey to the sea in search of a soul mate… or at least a beach hookup.


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