Chris Colligan, Wildlife Program Coordinator, Greater Yellowstone Coalition
Jon Mobeck, Executive Director, Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation
Siva Sundaresan, Conservation Director, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Conservation Organizations Collaborate on Emergency Measures to Protect Wildlife and our Families by Making it Safer for Wildlife to Cross our Roads
JANUARY 24, 2017, Jackson, WY – This year’s heavy snowfall has pushed animals down into town and onto our roads, while the snowbanks piling up along our roads pose a barrier to wildlife movement and an obstruction to sight lines for people driving. These hazardous conditions have resulted in an increased threat to public safety as more wildlife are being struck on our highways than usual, endangering our families and the herds that are most vulnerable in winter.
“According to Wyoming Game & Fish biologist Aly Courtemanch, the number of mule deer killed on our highways this winter could have a significant impact on the population of the locally wintering herd,” said Jon Mobeck, Executive Director of the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation. “Roadkill data collected by the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation indicates that well more than 200 mule deer are killed on Teton County highways in a typical year. That number could be higher this winter if current trends continue. Couple that with higher mortality due to severe winter conditions and those losses are likely unsustainable for the mule deer herd that winters in Jackson Hole.”
“The combination of deep, dense snowpack throughout the valley, very cold temperatures, high snowbanks and icy roads create perilous winter conditions for wildlife and a dangerous one for drivers,” said Chris Colligan, Wildlife Program Coordinator for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “Drivers should slow down and be alert at all times, and give wildlife space. Our community must do more and take steps in modifying our own behavior so that wildlife can deal with the extreme situation we face this winter,” Colligan continued.
To facilitate immediate action, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, and Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation worked with the Teton County Sherriff’s Office and the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) to implement emergency measures to protect wildlife and our families by making it safer for wildlife to cross our roads.
Specifically, the organizations and agencies are coordinating to strategically place a number of dynamic messaging signs near wildlife-vehicle collision hot-spots along south Hwy 89/191 and Hwy 22 warning people to watch out for wildlife. In addition, the groups are exploring additional potential opportunities for short-term action as our community continues moving forward with longer-term solutions that will make it safer for wildlife to cross our roads.
“We greatly appreciate the Sheriff’s Office and WYDOT’s willingness to collaborate on these emergency measures and their recognition of the need to act now,” said Siva Sundaresan, Conservation Director for the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. “While it’s great WYDOT is building a series of wildlife crossings as part of their south Hwy 89/191 reconstruction project and Teton County is moving forward with a Wildlife Crossings Master Plan to provide an objective, systematic, data-driven blueprint for reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions in our community, these projects will help in the future. We need some stop-gap, immediate actions to deal with the situation we are facing today.”
Wildlife crossings are bridges and tunnels designed to help wildlife safely cross the road. Combined with fences along 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. As part of the south Hwy 89/191 reconstruction project, WYDOT will construct six underpasses for big game, several smaller culverts for small mammals, and some fish passage crossings. Teton County’s Wildlife Crossings Master Plan will take all of the existing facts, data, studies, and analysis, fill in any important gaps, and recommend location-specific approaches for making it safe for wildlife to cross our roads at prioritized locations.
“Our crews have been working tirelessly to keep our highways open and safe, but we urge drivers to drive responsibly and be alert to the possibility that wildlife are struggling this winter and ending up on our roadways,” said Keith Compton, District Engineer for WYODT. “Drivers need to be cautious especially around dusk and dawn when wildlife is most active. We are working to place additional variable messaging signs to increase awareness of wildlife being on the road in hot-spot areas.”
About the Greater Yellowstone Coalition: The Greater Yellowstone Coalition was founded in 1983 on a simple premise: An ecosystem will remain healthy and wild only if it is kept whole. For more than 30 years, we have been a pioneer in defining and promoting the concept of ecosystem management. For more information, visitgreateryellowstone.org.
About the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance: Founded in 1979, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance protects the wildlife, wild places, and community character of Jackson Hole. For more information, visit jhalliance.org.
About the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation: The Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation works to promote ways for our community to live compatibly with wildlife. For more information, visit jhwildlife.org
Photo from JH