Big Sur Coast Highway Volunteer Roadkill Survey

Description and analysis

The goal of this survey is to record the species, date and location of any animals found dead on the Pacific Coast Highway (State Route 1) between the San Carpoforo Creek and the Carmel River Bridge, including birds, reptiles and mammals. By doing this, we hope to (1) help identify and locate roadkill "hot spots" that may correspond with wildlife corridors, (2) illustrate the magnitude of roadkill within the corridor, (3) determine the diversity of species affected, and (4) provide useful information and guidance for the Big Sur Coast Highway Management Plan. The survey data are contributed on a volunteer basis by local residents traveling the highway and reporting their observations to the survey coordinator. The survey began in October 2000 and is currently ongoing. An example of the form being used for the survey is shown below.

In November of 2001 the survey coordinator sent the latest sets of observations to the CHMP planning consultants, who compiled and analyzed the results. Their preliminary findings may be found in the Corridor Intrinsic Qualities Inventory (Parsons Transportation Group 2002). As stated in the above document, "various factors inherent within this informal survey methodology, such as observer variability, including species identification skills and level of effort; typical travel patterns of the participants, and lack of scientific structure, impose limitations on the applicability of the data collected. It is hoped that by collecting data over a period of at least one year that geographic, and possibly temporal, patterns might become evident."

Two additional limitations of the survey are (1) that an unknown but probably large proportion of roadkills were unrecorded in the survey, particularly for smaller animals but also including larger species, and (2) exact milepost (PM) locations are difficult to determine and location reporting is often very approximate, as the observers are driving and usually cannot stop their vehicle and examine the site in detail. In spite of these difficulties, conclusions can be drawn that reveal important aspects of the problem, and which suggest possible solutions.

In February of 2002 the survey coordinator received the compiled data (10-00 through 10-01) and prepared the report here. The strategy for analysis is to use the data to find seasonal variations as well as concentrations of roadkill ("hotspots") and to focus on those spots for detailed analysis of what was reported. It is also hoped that by analyzing and publicizing the first years' results, that community volunteers become motivated to continue to send in their reports.

Neighborhoods CHMP planners have designated 13 "neighborhoods" along the highway. Each neighborhood shares common characteristics such as type of terrain, land ownership, and other features. These are defined by boundaries and milepost values in the following table:

block # neighborhood block name south boundary PM
0 Ragged Point San Carpoforo Creek 71.4
1 Gorda Coast county line 0
2 Pacific Valley Willow creek 11.6
3 Lucia Coast Wild Cattle creek 17.3
4 Big Creek Coast Lucia 23
5 Esalen Coast Rat Creek 31
6 Partington Coast JP Burns S.P. 35.8
7 Big Sur Valley Castro Canyon 43.1
8 El Sur ranch Andrew Molera S.P. 51.2
9 Bixby Coast Little Sur River 56.1
10 Garrapata Coast Rocky Creek 60
11 Carmel Highlands Malpaso creek 67.8
12 Point Lobos Point Lobos 70.4
(Pt. Lobos north boundary) Rio Road 72.6

The amount of roadkill reported from each neighborhood has been summarized and discussed elsewhere.

(The form below was published several times in the "big Sur Roundup" monthly newspaper and printed for handing out at public events.)

Big Sur Coast Highway Road Kill Survey Form
Each year hundreds of wild and domestic animals are killed by traffic along the coast highway in Big Sur. I hope we can reduce this problem in the future by providing input to the highway management plan which Caltrans and other community members are creating. I would like to know your experiences and impressions about road kill in Big Sur. One goal is to produce a list of "hot spots" where road kill is most frequent, and to determine which type of animal is likely to be killed in each hot spot. It would also be useful to know the season of the year in which kills are most likely to occur.

Thank you to the approximately 15 people who have responded already. I am also requesting information about animals you might have seen right next to the road, even if they were not killed by traffic. This information can help us determine the location of "hot spot" wildlife corridors. I plan to continue the survey until October 2001, so please keep the reports coming in.

Location (be as precise as you can, use postmile reference, if known):
Species (type of animal):
Time of year: ____________________________________________________
Please mail to:
John Smiley, Big Creek Reserve, Big Sur CA 93920

You may also phone me at 667-2543 if that is easier (evenings 'til 8 pm are fine), or email