Nearly every one of us has seen wildlife killed after trying to cross the road. Most of us know someone who has been in a wildlife-vehicle collision. Our roads have become virtual walls to wildlife. It doesn’t have to be this way.
We can build wildlife crossings: bridges and tunnels to help animals cross the road. Combined with fences along roads to funnel animals to the crossings, wildlife crossings have proven to be the most effective measure to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions across America and around the world.
So it’s great that as part of reconstructing South Highway 89 the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) will be installing several wildlife crossing underpasses. On October 8 WYDOT held a public meeting to let folks know all about this project, details of the crossings, associated fencing, and proposed pathways.
We’ve put together a list of answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the project just in case you weren’t one of the sixty people who were able to attend the meeting, or if you were able to make it and still have questions.
South Highway 89 Wildlife Crossings FAQs:
When does the South Highway 89 reconstruction project start?
As you know if you’re driven South Highway 89 recently, this project has already begun. It has been years in the making and WYDOT has begun work stabilizing one landslide and plans to begin work stabilizing a second landslide soon.
How long will construction last?
Construction will last about 4 years and WYDOT will complete it in phases.
What are wildlife crossings? And, why do we need them?
Wildlife crossings are bridges and tunnels designed to help wildlife safely cross the road. Combined with high fences along the roads to funnel animals to the crossings, wildlife crossings have proven themselves across America and around the world as the most effective way to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and increase habitat connectivity.
Will there be any wildlife crossings as part of this project?
Yes! Great news. Wildlife on South Highway 89 will soon have several safe options to cross this highway while they move and migrate.
How many wildlife crossings does WYDOT plan to build?
Six underpasses for big game, several smaller culverts for small mammals, and some fish passage crossings.
Are these going to be the first wildlife crossings in Wyoming?
No. In fact, there are wildlife crossings all over Wyoming (go WYDOT!). The Trapper’s Point project just down the road near Pinedale, which includes six underpasses and two overpasses, has become world renowned for reducing pronghorn and mule deer collisions and for protecting the “path of the pronghorn” migration route. The Nugget Canyon project near Kemmerer, which includes six underpasses, has reduced mule deer collisions by eighty five percent.
How did WYDOT select the locations for the wildlife crossings?
WYDOT worked in consultation with the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and several local non-profit research and advocacy organizations to use data on wildlife-vehicle collision hot spots and migration corridors to identify the best locations.
Who designs these crossings?
WYDOT engineers are adept at designing wildlife crossings. The proposed crossings measure up well against recommended best practices to ensure that animals are likely to use them. In addition, an Advisory Committee of local conservation groups, agencies and County representatives meets periodically to review design issues.
Also, the Alliance is collaborating with the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative on pre-construction monitoring of wildlife at proposed wildlife crossing sites using camera traps. Together we have deployed 10 cameras at various potential crossing sites and have already obtained over 30,000 wildlife images. Data and images obtained from this project will inform final design considerations for wildlife crossings.
Why are all the proposed crossings underpasses?
WYDOT chose to build underpasses based on several factors: species, topography, geology, and existing infrastructure. Underpasses combined with fencing are highly effective measures to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.
Will there be fencing?
Yes. As part of this project fencing will be used to funnel animals toward the appropriate crossing location. Wildlife crossings simply don’t work without fencing.
Can fencing be good for animals?
Yes. Fencing (combined with wildlife crossings) is good because it guides animals to the appropriate places where they can safely cross the road without getting hit by cars.
How will we know if animals use these crossings?
Currently, several local conservation groups have remote cameras monitoring the proposed crossing locations. Post-construction, other monitoring efforts will continue to evaluate these crossing structures.
If you have any additional questions about this project, please contact WYDOT at their Jackson Offices at 1040 Evans Road or call 307-733-3665 or the WYDOT District Offices at 3200 Elk Street, Rock Springs, Wyo. or call 307-352-3000.