Wildlife crossings connect with a vast amount of issues which we confront in conserving our wildlife. The connectivity between wildlife crossings and migration corridors, healthy wildlife populations and the safety of drivers on our roadways is paramount to realize as we set forth on this all important mission.
Challenges and Opportunities
- Wyoming’s wildlife and highways are both important to the state’s economy and heritage, but they often come into conflict. This does not need to be the case.
- When wildlife cross roadways, it can be dangerous for motorists and for the wildlife.
- In Wyoming, 15% of all reported vehicle collisions involve big game wildlife. Over 6,000 deer, pronghorn, elk, and moose are hit by vehicles and killed on our roads every year. These collisions are costing nearly $50 million annually for damages to vehicles, human injury expenses and loss of wildlife.
- Roads may negatively affect wildlife populations by making it difficult or even impossible for animals to cross and access the habitat they need.
- Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) and Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) have a long and productive history working together to solve wildlife and roadway conflicts in Wyoming, yet much remains to be accomplished.
- Current state and federal funding has not kept pace with Wyoming’s roadways and wildlife priorities. While WYDOT does consider opportunities to integrate mitigation into roadway construction and maintenance, additional funding is needed to implement effective higher cost measures.
Identifying and Prioritizing Opportunities for Mitigation
- In 2017, the Wyoming Wildlife and Roadways Summit brought together 140 engineers, wildlife biologists, scientists, state agencies including WYDOT and WGFD representatives, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), federal agencies, local governments and the general public to focus efforts to reduce the conflict between wildlife and roads in Wyoming. Following the Summit, the Wyoming Wildlife and Roadways Initiative Implementation Team (Implementation Team) was formed to carry out the recommendations of the Summit.
- Regional WYDOT and WGFD personnel categorized and prioritized the sites (wgfd.wyo.gov/Wildlife-in-Wyoming/Migration-Corridors) identified at the Summit and suggested initial solutions. From here, the Implementation Team used expert knowledge and best available data to prioritize the most needed large-scale opportunities statewide.
- The Implementation Team produced a list of 40 high priority areas statewide, and a list of 10 project areas of most immediate attention.
Click on the logo below to interact with the plan and see if a priority project is near you!
- Where feasible and appropriate, highway underpasses and overpasses, coupled with game fencing, can be highly effective at reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions and ensuring that animals can safely and freely cross roads. Underpasses and overpasses in Wyoming and elsewhere in the west have been demonstrated to consistently reduce collisions by 80-90% and connect habitat for wildlife.
- Other measures, such as “dynamic” and movable message signs, fence modifications, right-of-way vegetation modifications, among others may also be part of the solution.
Proven and cost-effective strategies exist to mitigate wildlife and roadway conflicts. A locally-driven process has generated an action plan for Wyoming. Funding is a critical component in the implementation of this action plan and is essential in moving forward to benefit the safety of Wyoming’s motorists and wildlife.
Putting Words Into Action
The WYldlife Fund along with partners have raised $145,000 to send to the I-25 Wildlife Crossing Project. This stretch of highway between Buffalo and Kaycee is the second deadliest stretch of roadway for mule deer in the state. This cost effective project will act as a model for other projects like it across the west, as existing agriculture underpasses are being utilized to provide safe passage for wildlife crossing the busy highway. Approximately 18 miles of fencing will be installed to funnel wildlife to these existing agriculture underpasses. A camera study has proven these existing underpasses to be successful currently, as wildlife already navigate them and by installing fencing this success rate should sky rocket even higher and virtually eliminate wildlife being hit on this stretch of highway.