Motorists in North Dakota might be scratching their heads if they spot a roadkill deer or raccoon decked out in a bright coat of pink paint. But before you start imagining a macabre artist at work, rest assured—this is all in the name of science, according to the Grand Forks Herald!

Pink Paint and Practicality: UND Researchers Tackle Roadkill Data Collection

Lawson Frey, a graduate student at UND, and Lydia Wilson, his dependable technician, are scouring the state's highways and backroads in search of and marking road-killed wildlife with pink livestock paint. This vibrant twist on an otherwise grim task helps them avoid sampling the same carcass twice, a practical solution for their detailed data collection.

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Collaborative Effort: Mapping Collision Hotspots with Survey123

The project, a collaboration between UND, the North Dakota Department of Transportation, and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, aims to map out vehicle-animal collision hotspots using an app called Survey123. Each time Frey and Wilson encounter a roadkill, they log its GPS coordinates and species into the app, adding another piece to the puzzle.

Addressing North Dakota's Wildlife Collision Crisis: Insights from UND

UND Professor Susan Felege explains that this study seeks to reduce North Dakota’s high rate of wildlife-vehicle collisions—currently more than triple the national average of 5%. Many of these incidents go unreported due to the state’s specific reporting criteria, so the data Frey and his team gather is crucial for understanding the true scope of the problem.

Pink Paint Solution: Streamlining Roadkill Data Collection Across North Dakota

And the pink paint? It’s a creative workaround to prevent double-counting carcasses without the logistical nightmare of collecting and disposing of them all over the state. This technique allows the team to cover vast areas more efficiently, ensuring each painted roadkill tells its own story without redundancy.

The study spans major routes from Grand Forks to Minot and from Interstate 29 south of Grand Forks west to Jamestown. Some days, Frey racks up 700 miles, stopping to log each unfortunate critter they find. With Wilson now fully trained, the duo can tackle separate routes, expanding their coverage.

Beyond Roadkill: Mapping Wildlife Abundance to Enhance Road Safety in North Dakota

The project doesn’t just document the grim aftermath of vehicle-animal collisions; it also notes the abundance of live animals in certain areas. This dual focus could reveal why and where these collisions occur, guiding potential solutions like wildlife crossings or fencing. The ultimate goal is a safer coexistence for both humans and animals on North Dakota’s roads.

There’s also a bonus benefit for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Fresh roadkill deer in specific areas might help monitor for chronic wasting disease, adding another layer of utility to this extensive survey.

In the end, this project is a fascinating blend of wildlife management, ecology, and conservation. It’s a reminder that even in the most unexpected places—like alongside a pink-painted carcass—there’s important work being done to make our roads safer and our understanding of wildlife deeper.

So next time you’re driving in North Dakota, if you see a neon pink deer, you’ll know it’s a sign of science in action!

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