Adopt a Road Introduction

This website now allows observers to select roads to monitor more closely for wildlife. We are calling these roads "Adopt A Road Routes."

As a MAWRW “Adopt A Road” Volunteer, you will regularly monitor a section of road throughout the year to document wildlife crossings, both successful crossings (when you see a live animal on or near the road) and unsuccessful crossings (dead animals on the road or shoulder). By collecting wildlife crossing information on the same stretch of road over time, you will be contributing to an assessment of the impacts of roads on wildlife, and more importantly, to the first steps of developing a plan to reduce these impacts. Some of the questions we are asking: Where are wildlife crossing “hotspots” and what kind of habitat is along those roads? Forest? Wetland? Farmland? Which species are crossing at these locations? Are there effective wildlife crossing structures we can install under the roadway to help wildlife cross the road successfully? Would signs be effective at reducing roadkill? The answers to these questions start with gathering information about when and where wildlife cross the road, a critical step that requires your help.

Guidelines for Volunteers:

Volunteers should plan to commit to six surveys of a road section, either a section that you select, or Maine Audubon staff will help pick one for you. The road section should be surveyed from April through September, ideally with a minimum of one survey per month but more surveys if time allows. (If you have not adopted a road yet, it is not too late. You can adopt and survey a road any time of year.) You can conduct your survey by foot, bike or car. Surveys in a vehicle must be done with a partner so that the driver can focus on the road while the observer watches for wildlife crossings. Walking or biking with a partner is also recommended both for safety and to maintain consistent observer effort.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Everytime you survey your "Adopt A Road" route, you must enter that survey date (Click on "Add a Route Survey") into the website, whether or not you saw any wildlife. This is very important for the project data analysis.

Download "Adopt A Road" volunteer information and instructions here or Click and follow the links below:

Getting Started with Adopt A Road Route Surveying

Steps to Follow:

Step 1. Register as a Wildlife Road Watch volunteer. (If you are not already a MAWRW volunteer) Go to www.maineaudubon.org/wildlife-habitat/wildlife-road-watch/ and click “create an account”. You will need to provide an e-mail address in order to complete the registration process.

Step 2. Sign up as Road Watch “Adopt A Road” Volunteer. The Road Watch program is for both volunteers who make random observations about wildlife crossings as well as “Adopt A Road” volunteers who commit to longer-term monitoring on the same stretch of road over time. So in addition to registering in Step 1, you also need to sign up as an “Adopt A Road” volunteer by e-mailing roadwatch@maineaudubon.org or calling Becca Wilson (207)781-6180 ext. 222 with your name and email address. After you sign up, you will have access to the additional data entry web pages listed below.

Step 3. Find a Road Section. “Adopt A Road” sections should be at least a mile long for routes that will be walked or biked, and at least 10 miles for routes that are driven. You may select any continuous stretch of road that is convenient for you. It does not have to be the same type of road throughout the route, and can make turns as needed to reach 10 miles or more. You might want to consider a commuting route or a route that you travel regularly each month.

However you choose your route, be sure to check it out ahead of time, before you commit to long-term monitoring. Assess the speed limits, the traffic volumes, and safety concerns. Can the road be driven at a pace that allows thorough observation without slowing other traffic? Does the road have places to pull over, either wide shoulders or occasional driveways? Volunteer safety is critically important to this project and should take precedence in route selection. Observations from four-lane highways are accepted into the MAWRW system as random observations, but these roads are not appropriate for this project.

If you need help selecting a route, please send an email to roadwatch@maineaudubon.org and we would be happy to assist you.

Adopt a Road Route Instructions

Step 4. Survey Your “Adopt A Road” Section. After all the work to set up the route, this is where the fun begins! You should plan to drive/walk/bike your entire route and record all the wildlife crossings you see, live animals that make it across the road, and for those that don’t, evidence left behind in the form of roadkill.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Everytime you survey your "Adopt A Road" route, you must enter that survey date (Click on "Add a Route Survey") into the website, whether or not you saw any wildlife. This is very important for the project data analysis.

Equipment: Although you can do a survey with only a datasheet and writing utensil, we recommend the following equipment:

  • Reflective/Safety Vest (especially if walking the route or exiting your vehicle); in the absence of a safety vest, wear bright, visible clothing
  • Digital Camera (to document roadkill/crossing evidence) – this is strongly encouraged
  • GPS Unit or Smartphone/iphone (to capture latitude and longitude of observations)
  • Compass – to determine direction animal is/was heading
  • Cell phone (in case of emergency)
  • Copy of “Adopt A Road” route map (for marking locations of observations)
  • Flashlight/headlamp – if surveying at night

Safety: Volunteer safety is critical! You should not stop on interstates or on busy roads and highways where stopping and/or exiting the car is dangerous. Cars should pull completely out of the travel lanes so that other cars can get by in the travel lane. Cars should not be parked where they will have difficulty pulling back onto the road (like around sharp turns or blind corners). This survey should not cause an accident!

Walkers and bikers should be choosing routes where they can safely navigate the shoulder. We encourage volunteers to stop and observe roadkill up close, but only when it is safe to do so. Volunteers should wear a safety/reflective vest if they are walking/biking or if they plan to get out of a vehicle, and helmets are an absolute must for bikers. Volunteers should be working in pairs, especially in vehicles, so that data recording can be done by the passenger and the driver can focus on navigation.

***Frogs and turtles often move across roads in the spring time. For critters clearly moving across roads, volunteers can help by picking them up and moving them in the direction of travel. Wear gloves and be aware of traffic movement.***

Frequency: You should survey your “Adopt A Road” route for wildlife crossings at least six times, once a month starting in April and continuing through September. (If you have not adopted a road yet, it is not too late. Roads can be adopted and surveyed anytime of year.) More frequent surveys within each month, or earlier/later in the season are greatly appreciated. IMPORTANT: Please note that even surveys where you see no evidence of wildlife crossings are important and should be submitted on the project website.

Timing: There is no required time of day for surveys. Daytime is safer and easier to see roadkilled animals. Night time is best for observations of many live animals, especially amphibians, because that is when they are most active. However, it is also harder to see them and may require more attention to other cars as well.

Speed: Please drive your route slowly (within the legal speed limits) and safely while doing the survey. Pull over to let other drivers pass if you notice a back up behind you. When safe to do so, a maximum speed of 25 mph will allow you to spot most roadkilled animals.

Wildlife Identification: Ideally, you will be able to identify the species of wildlife you see, but in many cases you may only be able to provide more general identification (e.g., bird, raptor, snake, turtle, rodent, frog, large mammal, small mammal, etc.) Be as specific as you can be, and if needed, take notes for further research at home with field guides or on-line resources. For each identification, please indicate your level of confidence (Confident, Somewhat Confident, or Best Guess).

Photos: We strongly recommend taking a photo. It is helpful to have a photo of the roadkill in context (surrounding landscape, fences, barriers, etc) as well as a close-up to help confirm species identification. Putting a coin or ruler in the photo for scale can be helpful. Photos can be uploaded to the website during data entry. Once the picture is taken, volunteers may move the carcass off the roadway or shoulder if they have the proper equipment (including disposable gloves and disinfectant for shovels or other tools). It is fine to leave roadkill as it is.

Datasheet and Map: All data should be recorded onto a datasheet, with locations of each observation marked on a map (photocopies from an atlas or on-line map will work). The datasheet closely follows the web-based forms for entering data on-line. Data should be filled in for each observation along your route. Remember, recording surveys with no observations is extremely important, and a record of that survey ("Add a Route Survey" under the Adopt A Road Menu) must be created and entered online. At the end of the survey, be sure to review the datasheet for completeness, especially the time the survey ended. Download datasheet here.

Adopt a Road On-line Data Entry

There are three steps to entering your data on-line.

1. “Adopt A Road” Section Identification Information: You only need to do this once for any “Adopt A Road” section you are monitoring, and you cannot enter any other data for the “Adopt A Road” section until this step is complete. Go the Adopt A Road Menu, select “Create a Road Route” link. Enter information about the name, location and description of your route, including the stop and start points. You can also upload a digital copy of a map, which is encouraged.

2. Survey Information: “Adopt A Road” Surveys need to be completed from start to finish, with a constant effort over the entire route to search for wildlife crossings/roadkill. If you happen to observe roadkill on part of your route (but you are not in the process of surveying the route from start to finish), you can report that data as a random observation in the Road Watch system. However, each time you survey your “Adopt A Road” section from start to finish, you need to "Add a Route Survey" to record the date of the survey. Recording the survey date adds information about the entire survey, but not the actual wildlife crossings. Specifically, the date and time the survey started and ended, as well as any information about the survey itself (weather, unusual observations, notes about what happened along the route, problems, etc.). Again, this information has to be entered before any actual wildlife crossing/roadkill data is entered. This process must be repeated each time a survey is run. So for example, if you survey your “Adopt A Road” route 12 times throughout the season, you will have to create 12 “Route Survey” dates, one for each time you go out and survey your road. Even if there are no wildlife crossings noted on a given survey, the route survey date MUST still be entered into the system. Not finding evidence of wildlife crossings is extremely valuable information. For surveys with no wildlife observations, this is the last step to data entry. To add a “route survey date” go to the Adopt a Road Menu and click on “Add a Route Survey”.

3. Wildlife Crossing/Roadkill Information: Assuming you’ve made observations along your survey, and once your "Route Survey" date has been entered as outlined above, you can then enter your wildlife observations. Under the Observer Menu click “Enter Observation” and follow the steps. Be sure under the “Adopt A Road Route” tab to select a specific route survey date. If you are making an observation outside of a full run of your “Adopt A Road” Survey (i.e., you are driving part of your route but have not done the route from the start to the finish), you can still enter the data but do not create a Route Survey date. Route Survey dates are only created for full survey efforts.

The data sheet follows the on-line data form fairly closely. Click here to download datasheet. Enter each observation along a survey route independently. A route with three observations, for example, will require you to enter three separate observations (selecting the same “route survey date” each time.

Questions should be directed to roadwatch@maineaudubon.org or call Barbara Charry (207)781-6180 ext. 225.