by Pietro Castelli
In June of 2017 I drove across the country from Boston to Jackson, completing the last leg of the journey up 191 through Rock Springs. On the way up I drove under some curious looking bridges that crossed over the highway but seemed unattached to any developed roads. It was only after I had been in Teton County for a while and started to learn about local conservation issues that I realized those curious structures are wildlife crossings.
Thanks to an internship at the Conservation Alliance, I learned that Teton County was in the process of developing a Wildlife Crossings Master Plan to identify hot spots and potential mitigation measures around the county, including studying one on WY-22. The plan is due out in the coming weeks and will help direct community conversation around next steps.
Fast forward to January. I was driving to a dinner party in Wilson one night, chatting with a friend about the chili feast we were about to have, when out of nowhere she loudly interjected, “Look out!” A split second later a large adult moose emerged from the darkness and into my field of vision, crossing the road in front of us. I swerved to the right and we careened around the moose, coming so close as to pass underneath its head. Neither of us said anything for a few seconds, but once we fully realized what had just happened and more importantly, what could have happened, we both had a full blown freak out.
If I had reacted a second slower. If my friend hadn’t seen the moose before me. If the roads had been icy. If the moose had decided to start crossing a second earlier. In all likelihood, if any of the above scenarios had taken place, my friend and I would be dead. You just don’t walk away from a head-on collision with a moose like that. We are very lucky to be alive.
Where did this incident take place? Right where the community is considering installing a wildlife crossing, on WY-22. It seems like a perfect place to me. These crossings aren’t just meant to save animal lives; they’re meant to save human lives as well. This is an issue and a project that everyone can get behind. The life you save could be your own.