Driving along the highway can be a therapeutic experience. For some, singing along to loud music, rolling the windows down so the wind can fill the space and speeding along open stretches of road are just what it takes to clear a busy mind. But for Missouri’s wildlife, the road provides a refuge with access to food and shelter. But, when the paths of humans and wildlife intersect, the latter is often left worse for wear. When animals encounter highways, they are often met by the onslaught of vehicles, leaving animals dangerously susceptible to being hit and left on the side of the road to deteriorate.
Climate change is affecting temperatures and weather patterns across the Midwest. In turn, this is having an impact on the habits of the state’s native wildlife. Animals depend on the consistency of having a stable climate, habitat and access to food and water. Most animals depend on climatic cues to tell them when they should migrate, mate and hibernate. Climate change confuses these signals and forces animals like skunks, deer and coyotes to adapt their life cycles. Floods and droughts alter and displace their water sources, causing dehydration. The increase in warmer temperatures forces animals out of hibernation earlier, and when they go looking to fill their bellies, they find that food sources like plants and insects have yet to arrive. Droughts and urban development threaten the habitats of local wildlife, forcing them into smaller areas closer to people where they’re more likely to conflict.
All of these things contribute to animals moving closer to humans for food and to rebuild their habitats. This congestion forces animals closer to roads where they’re in imminent danger of getting struck by oncoming traffic.