Friday, 24 November 2017 03:19

Pronghorn X-ing to aid driver awareness about wildlife

Written by  Ryan Dahlman
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A self described "new citizen science project" is trying to find a solution for wildlife vehicle collisions in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan.

 Megan Jensen, project coordinator of Pronghorn Xing explains that Pronghorn Xing is a new citizen science initiative that is led by the Miistakis Institute. Pronghorn Xing is a collaborative project utilizing many partnerships such as, Alberta Conservation Association, Alberta Transportation, Alberta Environment and Parks, Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment, And Saskatchewan Government Insurance.
The project involves ordinary citizens reporting when and where they see live or deceased wildlife. Passenger in a vehicle, can use the Pronghorn Xing smartphone application to report both live and deceased animals at the exact time of seeing them. If driving alone, people are encouraged to take a mental note of where you saw wildlife and use our online mapping tool, which is found on their website at an appropriate time.
"The Miistakis Institute developed the app and the style for the data collection. In order to get citizens involved, the app had to be user friendly," explains Jensen. "It is important to have citizens involved in this project because the public makes a difference when trying to implement change. If everyone can get excited about conservation and play a role in it, it is more likely that change will be implemented."
Jensen explains the Pronghorn Xing initiative was developed after discovering that Pronghorn have trouble with their seasonal movements and migrations.
"Pronghorn did not adapt to the fences that are all encompassing of the prairie landscape, they will rarely jump over fences," adds Jensen. "Fences are one limiting factor to pronghorn migration, highways also pose a large obstacle. They are essentially like a fence in that it is a really stressful time for them to find a safe place to cross. It can take days for a pronghorn to cross the highway. This can be detrimental because they need to migrate in order to meet their life requirements, pronghorn are subject to extreme winter kill.
"So, pronghorn Xing formed to help make Alberta and Saskatchewan’s highways a safer for both Pronghorn and other wildlife as well as individuals travelling the highway. It would be best for both people and wildlife if there were mitigation strategies that would ensure the safe crossing of wildlife across the highway. Pronghorn Xing plans to identify pinch points for pronghorn crossing with the help of the public. We also think it would be a great project to get the public involved in pronghorn science and conservation."
The information collected will be sent to the Government of Alberta and Saskatchewan to help facilitate mitigation strategies.
Jensen who is based out of Medicine Hat says living in southeast Alberta has made her interested in animal conservation.
"I really developed a passion for Alberta’s grasslands while working there and developed a new appreciation for the wildlife that inhabit the grasslands," Jensen explains. "The pronghorn is a unique mammal and I feel very fortunate to be part of a project that aims to help pronghorn conservation."
Prior to working with Pronghorn Xing, Jensen worked with the Alberta Conservation Association on the Pronghorn Resource and Enhancement Management Project and MULTISAR, first as Wildlife Technician and then eventually becoming a Junior Wildlife Biologist.
She is currently the only local coordinator in southeastern Alberta and Southwest Saskatchewan. She says she work closely with the Miistakis Institute,  based out of Calgary. 
"I believe in this group is necessary because it is a worthy cause. As mentioned, wildlife vehicle collisions are very costly," says Jensen. "If we can implement a mitigation strategy that both benefits wildlife and makes the highway a safer place for those of us who travel it, then we should."
Jensen cited the fact that in 2008, Alberta transportation reported that wildlife vehicle collisions resulted in $ 240 million dollars in damages and as of 2013, Alberta Transportation reported that 54% of rural collisions involved wildlife.
"You know, I can’t say whether others are surprised as the program is fairly new but I know I was surprised," says Jensen. "It is a significant amount of money and it is hard to imagine how many wildlife vehicle collisions would have to occur to result in such a large sum.
Jensen hopes people will get involved and contribute some time to the cause. She wants to hear feedback, positive or areas where the project needs suggestions or improvement.
"We are just starting to get volunteers to get the app and use the online mapping system. We have received some feedback on the app though," says Jensen. "People are always wondering about the route function. We just want people to know that it helps us to understand user participation. Maybe they travel the highway every day and don’t see any wildlife on that certain portion of highway, if you have the route function on, we know that you didn’t see anything and that’s equally as important to us so then we know where to implement possible mitigation strategies and where not to.
"People are also concerned with data usage and really, the app doesn’t use any data. It uses the GPS function in your phone and that information is saved until you get to an area where you are on wifi and can upload the data which it does when you open the app again. I have also been getting a lot of texts and phone calls from people telling me where they have seen wildlife and what wildlife they are seeing, people are always excited to tell me about it and I’m excited to hear about it. If there are any issues with the app I want people to let me know because when you have troubles that can be frustrating. We want the process to be as smooth as possible and we want to solve any issues to ensure the app is user friendly."
 If you would like more information about Pronghorn Xing, visit their website at www.pronghornxing.orgor contact Megan Jensen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Megan Jensen will be interested in what drivers have to say.

Read 583 times Last modified on Thursday, 23 November 2017 13:31

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