We used integrated video systems to compare wildlife use of 2 bridged wildlife underpasses (UPs) on a reconstructed highway in central Arizona, USA, from September 2002 to September 2005. Both UPs opened into the same riparian–meadow complex, were situated <250 m apart, and had different below-span characteristics and dimensions. Our objectives were to compare Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) response to the UPs and test hypotheses that passage rate (crossing frequency/approach frequency), probability of use, and behavioral response at the 2 UPs did not differ. We related differences in elk use and response to UP design characteristics. Elk accounted for >90% of the animals we recorded on videotape, with 3,708 elk in 1,266 groups recorded at the 2 UPs. We used multiple logistic regression to predict the probability of UP use by elk, incorporating the combined effects of UP, season, and year. Season had the greatest effect on UP use, with the probability of UP use in summer (0.81) higher than in winter (0.58), when migratory elk less habituated to the UPs were present. A pattern of high summer (>0.80) and low winter passage rates (<0.40), regardless of UP, existed in all 3 years of video surveillance. Underpass also had an effect on the probability of elk crossing the UPs; the probability of use of the UP with 2 times the openness ratio, one-half the length for elk to traverse, and sloped earthen sides (0.75) was higher than the neighboring UP with concrete walls (0.66). Proportions of elk displaying behaviors indicative of resistance to crossing were dependent on UP and were higher at the UP with concrete walls. In all cases, elk preferred the more open UP with natural earthen sides. We believe that differences in UP length and the concrete walls contributed to differences in elk use and behavioral response. Continued video surveillance of these and other UPs will allow us to evaluate their efficacy in promoting wildlife permeability and safer highways.
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Vol. 71 • No. 2