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Wildlife Overpasses

 

Wildlife Crossing Structures

The State of Wyoming has been a leader in the construction of wildlife overpasses and underpasses designed for animals to safely cross highways.

Why build these wildlife crossing structures and why do we consider them “conservation success stories?”

Each year, thousands of animals are hit and killed by vehicles on Wyoming’s roads, highways, and interstates. Jackson Hole alone experiences hundreds of these wildlife-vehicle collisions. The goal of wildlife crossing structures is to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and to make the landscape more permeable for wildlife movement in the face of human development and infrastructure.

A herd of pronghorn avoid a highway by crossing a wildlife overpass. Photo: Jeff Burrell

Wildlife crossing structures have been shown to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions with deer, elk, pronghorn and moose by 80-90% when used in conjunction with funnel fencing. Furthermore, by helping wildlife safely cross roadways, they eliminate a perilous impediment and improve the connectivity of wildlife corridors, vital in linking large areas of valuable habitat.

In addition to the impact on wildlife, collisions with large animals can prove both dangerous and costly to drivers. In Wyoming, the average expense of a collision with a moose exceeds $50,000.

In 2012, the Wyoming Department of Transportation built six wildlife underpasses and two wildlife overpasses along US Highway 191 near Pinedale, Wyoming at Trappers Point. This project is among the largest of its kind in Wyoming and has successfully reduced wildlife-vehicle collisions by 79% for mule deer and 100% for pronghorn in a critical migration area.

Even better news is that the conservation success story of wildlife crossing structures is growing. In recent years, wildlife crossing structures have been built along south Highway 89 in Jackson, Wyoming and are currently being designed on Highways 22 and 390 in Wilson, Wyoming.

A education exhibit tells the story of wildlife crossing structures just north of Pinedale, Wyoming. Photos: Vance Carruth