DAVIS, Calif. — If you are a commuter, Southern California freeways are your nightmare. If you happen to be a deer, coyote or raccoon, the highways of Northern California are a lot worse.
A study released Thursday by the University of California Davis identified the state highways that are the worst for collisions and near-misses with animals. The San Francisco Bay Area has most of the worst offenders. Only two are in the south.
Interstate 280 in the San Francisco Bay Area is the most troublesome, based on the cost-per-mile of animal issues. It had 386 collisions reported in 2016 that cost nearly $875,000 in cleanup and maintenance.
U.S. Highway 101 north of San Francisco in Marin County is second-worst, followed by State Route 13 from Oakland to Berkeley.
In Southern California, State Highway 2 in northeast Los Angeles provides the biggest problems, followed by U.S. 101 in the San Fernando Valley.
The study does not include every “wildlife-vehicle conflict” as the researchers call them, only animal-related incidents that are reported to the Highway Patrol.
“The need for projects that reduce the risk to driver safety and lives, property damage, and impacts to wildlife is critical,” the study says.
The California Department of Transportation, which would oversee such projects, did not have an immediate response.
A map of hotspots shows the worst areas are along the coast and on busy highways in mountain areas. The worst highways are heavily trafficked and generally in at least semi-urbanized areas.
The “risk is greatest when there are more drivers driving fast through or near wildlife habitat, such as the San Francisco peninsula, the Sierra Nevada foothills and the hills surrounding the Los Angeles basin,” the authors say.
The study recommends erecting more fencing along the worst spots, saying it would quickly pay for itself in the money saved on animal-versus-vehicle collisions.
Fencing along I-280, for example, would pay for itself in six months with reduced animal issues, the study says. It also suggests underpasses and overpasses for wildlife in key areas.