Title

Roadway Mortality of Barn Owls in Idaho, USA

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

9-1-2012

Abstract

We examined the temporal, spatial, and demographic factors that influenced roadway mortality of barn owls (Tyto alba) along a 248-km stretch of Interstate 84 in southern Idaho using systematic road surveys. Counts of dead animals from surveys can be underestimated because of sampling biases; therefore, we also conducted experiments to assess the effects of search and removal bias on the estimates of roadway mortality of owls. We conducted surveys every 2 weeks over a 2-year period and detected 812 dead barn owls (unadjusted mortality rate of 1.64 owls/km/yr). After adjusting this estimate for search and removal bias, we documented mortality rates of up to 5.99 owls/km/year. Owl mortality was not random in relation to sex, age class, or location along the highway. Females and juveniles, which represent individuals more likely to disperse long distances, were killed more frequently than males and adults. During the nonbreeding season, owls were killed more often near agricultural lands than in shrub-steppe, but this pattern was not apparent during the breeding season. Owls were also killed more often on portions of the roadway closer to the Snake River canyon, perhaps because of the availability of nest and roost sites. Mortality rates differed markedly between the 2 years of study, which could have been related to variability in weather and its subsequent effect on owl productivity. Our data suggest that barn owls in this region may not persist under this level of mortality without significant immigration or management. Thus, roadway management to reduce or prevent owl use of roadways, reduce rodent populations near major roads, alert motorists to the presence of owls, or otherwise reduce the chances that vehicles and owls collide would improve barn owl survival and population persistence.