The rural East County community of Jamul has garnered some statewide attention: the stretch of Highway 94 that runs from Rancho San Diego east toward Dulzura was ranked by researchers at UC Davis as one of the state's top hot spots for roadkill observations.
"Many areas along State Route 94 in San Diego County have high rates of collisions where the highway runs through wildlife habitat," states an April 15 release accompanying the report. As a result, Caltrans is planning to build five new "wildlife crossing structures" along the corridor.
According to researchers, 681 animals of 57 different species were found over a four-year period spanning October 2010 to October 2014 along a 25-mile stretch beginning just east of Spring Valley, where the freeway ends and eventually tapers to a two-lane road.
That equates to about nine animals per mile per year, though researchers believe the actual numbers are much higher. It's been theorized that current drought conditions are leading to a spike in deaths, as increasingly desperate animals resort to crossing busy roads they otherwise might not traverse in search of food and water.
One suggestion to save animals that's drawn the ire of conservationists who would otherwise support wildlife protection measures is the installation of nonnative landscaping such as ice plant and oleander along high-kill roads, as the plants tend to deter native species.
"You have a sterile, dangerous place — the roadway," says UC Davis' Road Ecology Center co-director Fraser Shilling. "You don’t want to attract animals there."