Paynes Prairie: Ecopassages
A picture of the prairie through one of the fences that protects the wildlife.
U.S. 441 cutting through the prairie.
A sign informing observers of the $500 fine for feeding the alligators.  This is enforced to protect the wildlife.

The U.S. 441 highway cuts Paynes Prairie into two sections. By isolating the prairie into two different parts, animals are separated from resources that are vital to them. This two-mile section of road that crosses the prairie also caused U.S. 441 to be the deadliest highway in America for wildlife for years. Over thousands of frogs, turtles, snakes, alligators and rabbits were killed by passing cars. This situation was dangerous for drivers and their automobiles as well. Hitting one of these animals could cause a deadly accident for both driver and animal.

To solve this problem, Florida built the first ecopassage within the state at Paynes Prairie. An ecopassage is a small tunnel, designed for small to medium sized animals, that cuts underneath the highway. This connects the two areas of the prairie and allows the animals to travel safely across. There are eight of these wildlife underpasses under U.S. 441 that unite the prairie.

Aside from the ecopassages, fences have been installed on the side of the highway. These fences help prevent the wildlife from getting up on the the highway, which is raised compared to the prairie. Many people also used to stop on this highway and look at or feed the alligators. Before this fence was put up it was very possible for a human or a small pet to fall into the prairie, where the alligators dwell. The fence not only helps encourage animals to use the ecopassage, but it keeps observers safe from the wildlife.

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