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Black bear deaths set record; road crossings under design

Associated Press
Published February 17, 2006

A record number of black bears died on Florida highways last year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's preliminary figures.

Vehicles killed 139 bears. The previous high was 132 in 2002.

Nuisance complaints and bear sightings also hit a record 2,105, a nearly 35 percent increase from the previous high in 2004.

Many of the bear deaths are happening near sensitive environmental areas where explosive growth is increasing traffic.

To deal with the problem, the state Transportation Department and other agencies have begun designing wildlife crossings as part of new roads.

"It's very expensive, but it has become the cost of doing business," said Stephen Tonjes, a department environmental scientist. The proposed $60-million widening of Interstate 4 to six lanes from State Road 44 to Interstate 95 in Volusia County will include three wildlife crossings, two under the roadway and a third above it. Construction could begin in six years, but the state is working to move up that schedule.

Elevated I-4 spans would stretch about 108 feet over two crossings, allowing animals to move underneath traffic. The land bridge over the Interstate - 212 feet long, 150 feet wide and estimated to cost more than $4-million - will be the largest of its kind in Florida, officials said.

[Last modified February 17, 2006, 02:15:35]

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