Monday, October 2, 2017

Critter Shelf for Adirondack Wildlife Pilot Project Underway

culvert critter shelf courtesy dotThe New York State Department of Transportation and The Nature Conservancy are piloting what is said to be the state’s first-ever “critter shelf” for wildlife. Installed this summer inside a large culvert under State Route 12, south of Boonville, in the Black River Valley, the suspended walkway provides a two-foot wide platform for wildlife to scurry through the culvert instead of crossing over the busy road. It is attached to one side of the corrugated steel culvert with brackets and cables.

While Route 12 is an important travel corridor, it can also be a dangerous obstacle for wildlife. Alternatively, wildlife attempting to cross also pose danger to drivers. The Route 12 culvert carries a stream that averages about three feet in depth under the road. The new shelf sits above water level so as not to impede flow, or compromise structural integrity. At 138 feet, it runs along the full length of the culvert and expands the potential for use by wildlife by providing dry passage for bobcats and other wildlife that don’t swim.

Scientists identified the 650,000-acre Black River Valley — a patchwork of forests, farms, businesses and residential communities — as an important linkage area for wildlife. They believe enhancing wildlife pathways in this area gives animals a chance to move between the core forests of the Adirondacks and the Tug Hill, which is important for finding food and mates, adapting to climate change, and preventing populations from becoming isolated.

According to an announcement sent to the press by DOT: “Through wildlife tracking and computer models, Route 12 was identified as a significant barrier to wildlife movement. The culvert at this site is in good condition and keeps water away from the road above it. Additionally, it is large, 14.4 feet tall by 13 feet wide, and surrounded by forest cover on both sides, including one side protected by a conservation easement, making it a good, strategic choice. At $28,375 this modification is far less expensive than completely replacing a culvert with a new one designed for wildlife passage.”

The Nature Conservancy says they have been using trail cameras, which are activated by motion and heat, to monitor wildlife activity at this site for more than a year prior to the shelf installation. The cameras are expected to stay in place for at least a year to help assess the effectiveness of the new walkway.

culvert critter shelfThe shelf was shipped to New York from Montana, where they are currently in use. The design, trademarked and patented as CritterCrossing, was developed and tested in Montana by transportation experts, a wildlife biologist, and a steel manufacturer.

DOT is working on practices in the Adirondack Park to improve wildlife connectivity and reduce wildlife mortality. This includes targeted turtle fencing adjacent to the highway near Tupper Lake that prevents turtles from crossing over Route 30, adding stream structures at culvert crossings during projects to improve aquatic species passage, updating guidance to inform bridge and culvert project development to potentially enhance opportunities for fish and wildlife passage.

The Nature Conservancy and New York State Department of Transportation are both partners of the Staying Connected Initiative, a network of transportation and natural resource agencies, non-profit organizations and others working together to maintain and enhance habitat connectivity for wildlife across an 80-million-acre forested landscape shared by the United States and Canada.

Photos: Culvert Critter Shelf, provided by Department of Transportation.

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7 Responses

  1. Boreas says:

    Great idea! Anyone else think $26K is a tad expensive? Apparently stainless steel fabrication is more expensive than I thought. Perhaps we can get the price down if we buy in bulk. It certainly would be nice to cut down on roadkills around the state.

  2. Ethan says:

    Good concept apparently used successfully in other states and seems to be gaining in popularity.
    I’m curious about whether there have yet been any followup studies regarding predator species eventually learning that their prey will likely be using the same corridors. We KNOW they’re smart critters. I just wonder how long it will take them to figure it out? Or will they?

  3. Charlie S says:

    “While Route 12 is an important travel corridor, it can also be a dangerous obstacle for wildlife.”

    This is true for every road in America…a dangerous obstacle for wildlife! I am just back from a few weeks stay in the southern Adirondacks near Day. Bullfrogs are aplenty up in that area where I was and their bass tone croaks came to me every night I was there,and in the early mornings. My friend Ed, who owns the camp where I stayed, described the sounds that come from when the cars come in contact with these frogs as they try to cross the road. One after the other,by the hundreds,these frogs are slaughtered every spring. He said people stop here and there to try to get them out of the road….to no avail. Maybe a few they save compared to how many get run over. Most people just go by without even slowing down….splat, splat, splat.

    I have always wondered why they don’t put tunnels under new roads for wildlife to traverse instead of going over the roads (they do this in other countries is my understanding.) Even worse they put up cement barriers as medians in some places so that animals have nowhere to go if they make it that far across and 99% of the time are hit by cars because they become confused and frightened as humans speed by. Thank you New York for your thoughtfulness!

  4. Boreas says:


    Unfortunately, if they aren’t warm, fuzzy, and cute, most people could care less about animals. You don’t see many “save the amphibians” campaigns on TV, despite the fact many of them are in serious trouble. Just human nature. Or is that an oxymoron?

  5. Charlie S says:

    People just plain don’t care Boreas. ABC! And to think how many are out there waving flags fessing up to how proud they are. You’ve got to wonder…proud about what?

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