CHEYENNE - The Wyoming Department of Transportation has been honored by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies for their work over the years to reduce big game mortality on highways within Wyoming.
The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies is comprised of 23 states and Canadian provinces stretching from Alaska to Texas and Saskatchewan to Hawaii.
Wyoming Game and Fish director Scott Talbott said for more than 20 years WYDOT has worked tirelessly to understand and reduce big Game mortality on Highways within Wyoming. “WYDOT has become a leader in designing and building innovative highway crossing structures to address these crucial wildlife needs,” Talbott said.
In 2001, WYDOT developed Wyoming's first ungulate crossing structure in Nugget Canyon along U. S. Highway 30 near Kemmerer in western Wyoming. This underpass was so successful in reducing vehicle/wildlife collisions that it led to a number of additional projects in the area including six underpasses and 6.5 miles of deer-tight fencing. In total, these structures and associated fencing have reduced overall deer-vehicle collisions by 85 percent in Nugget Canyon.
Monitoring over subsequent years suggests that more than 13,000 mule deer now migrate safely across this busy stretch of highway, helping conserve one of the most unique mule deer migration routes and herds in the west.
In 2009, due to the success of the Nugget Canyon project, WYDOT constructed a second series of underpasses on U.S. Hwy 789 north of Baggs. Today, 6,000 to 8,000 mule deer use these underpasses to safely cross U. S. Highway 789 each year.
Talbott said that following the success of those two projects, a third and the most impressive project to date, was completed in the fall of 2012 near Pinedale.
“The Trappers Point Project addressed one of the longest seasonal ungulate migrations within the continental United States,” Talbott said. “The project includes two overpasses, six underpasses and several miles of deer-tight fencing to provide safe crossing locations for mule deer and pronghorn along U.S. Highway 191.”
Wildlife managers have documented these populations annually travel more than 150 miles between summer ranges in the northern Wind River and Gros Ventre Mountains and winter ranges in the Red Desert of southwestern Wyoming.
“Although the project was designed to benefit both mule deer and pronghorn, the overpasses are especially important to pronghorn because they are some of the first structures ever built in North America to get this species across a major highway,” Talbott said.
Preliminary results from Western EcoSystems Technology Inc., show this project allowed passage of at least 8,000mule deer and pronghorn following completion last fall and has essentially eliminated vehicle collisions on this heavily-traveled highway.
To date, WYDOT crossing projects have resulted in the safe passage of approximately 30,000 big game animals annually.
“However, WYDOT personnel have-not stopped with crossing projects alone. Both administrative and field-level personnel have worked to build and maintain key relationships with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and a plethora of other organizations and federal agencies concerned with ungulate migrations in the state,” Talbott said. “WYDOT has and continues to support a number of important deer and pronghorn research studies relating ungulate movements to highway crossings.”
(Contact: Al Langston (307) 777-4540)