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Animal Rights Conference Sparks Debate

While road kill may be a dead issue to some people, transportation and environmental experts addressed the problem in a series of meetings in upstate New York this week.

The group gathered in Lake Placid at the Conference on Ecology and Transportation (search) to discuss life and death issues as they relate to snakes, frogs and turtles. Meanwhile, critics blasted the event's $100,000 price tag.

That didn't seem to sway Nelson Hoffman of the Vermont Transportation Agency (search), who was on hand to explain how putting up fences helped his state preserve the life of its waning frog population.

"It's making sure frogs are fat and not flat," he said.

Among other things inspiring him to address the issue, Hoffman said, was a question posed to him by his 5-year-old son.

"Why do you need to spend a whole week talking to people about that? Why don't we just tell people to stop running over animals?" Hoffman reported his son asking him. 

That essentially was the argument being made by the forum's critics, who are thoroughly convinced that such extravagant sums of money should be spent on improving the quality of life for humans, not animals.

Organizers, on the other hand, were quick to point out that the issues addressed by the conference also pertain to driver safety. 

"Over 200 people a year in the United States are killed hitting or trying to avoid hitting large animals," said Bill Ruediger, of the USDA Forest Service (search).

Still, plenty of attention was paid to the animals and the effect of transportation on their environments. Among the topics were the impact of highways on Dutch Breeding birds and the highway mortality of turtles.

Clutching the body of one victim — one even possibly killed by an event attendee — Kimberly Andrews of the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (search) seemed more motivated than ever to tackle the issue head on.

"This right here is exactly what has inspired me to do this work of research, just noticing from driving around, hey, there are a lot of dead snakes around here," Andrews said.

Florida State University professor Mathew Aresco seemed equally amazed by what he considered to be just as riveting a phenomenon: the effectiveness of prevention methods.

"There has been quite a change in the ability of a turtle to make it across four lanes," he said of areas where steps have been taken to deal with the problem.

A possible solution to the road kill dilemma is the installation of roadside animal detection systems across the country.

Prototypes, and their correspondent costs, vary on different prevention methods, but some taxpayers might also offer a suggestion for saving the needed resources: Stop wasting them on seminars more likely to cure insomnia than save lives.

Fox News' David Lee Miller contributed to this report.