Ohio’s Furbearer Roadkill Survey
In 1979, the ODNR Division of Wildlife began conducting roadkill surveys in the spring (March and April) for several furbearers and small game mammals, most lately focusing mainly on raccoons, skunks, opossums, and woodchucks. This annual survey method used for long-term monitoring provides information regarding population trends for these species and a way to track abundances of species over the years.
From the data collected, it appears that raccoon numbers have been on the increase and is thought to be attributed to the decline in raccoon harvest due to low pelt prices. On the other hand, the population levels for opossums, skunks and woodchucks have decreased.
Where skunks are concerned, part of reason for their decline is thought to be tied to disease-related factors. Opossum populations seem to be impacted more heavily by winter weather, with substantial mortality occurring in more severe winters.
The continuing low road kill rates and high rates of population decline for woodchucks are unknown. However, it is speculated that since they are considered as a nuisance species, the increase in pest control may have influenced this trend. Furthermore, with the arrival of and significant increase in coyote populations in Ohio, predation may also be a tangible factor.
Wildlife researchers have noted that even though these roadkill surveys are fairly reliable, cost-effective tools, the data should always be interpreted with caution. Annual variations in the weather, as well as changes in traffic volume can be a factor that influences the yearly roadkill rates. Nonetheless, surveillance of these populations is warranted and will continue for the time being.