Protectors of wildlife in Utah have reason to celebrate, thanks to an overpass specifically designed for animals to cross the Interstate-80 highway in the northern part of the state.
The bridge, decked out in natural rocks, logs, and branches, was erected in Parleys Canyon in 2018 in an effort to reduce the number of wildlife/vehicle accidents occurring on a 13-mile stretch of road that has been dubbed “Slaughter Row,” east of Salt Lake City.
Last November, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) posted on Facebook some of the results they’ve seen so far, since the crossing was implemented. The project’s success is judged, in part, by the fact that wildlife are using the bridge (humans are prohibited from using it, as doing so would deter animals) and footage confirms that they are.
Having set up cameras on the bridge, DWR officers spotted such species as: moose, bears, coyotes, chipmunks, porcupines, mountain lions, and other wildlife traversing the highway, safely to the other side.
The project targets areas where the highest numbers of animals are attempting to migrate across hazardous roads.
“Our biologists have a program in the Utah Wildlife Migration Initiative where we collar a lot of wildlife specimens and that helps us track their migration routes,” DWR public information officer Faith Heaton Jolley told The Epoch Times. “Then we basically partner up with the Department of Transportation to incorporate some of those areas where a wildlife crossing would be appropriate.”
She calls the project’s recent success “very exciting.” The research and effort helping wildlife migrate safely has paid off.
Some 4,470 deer and elk were reported killed in 2020, as of November 25, according to the DWR; but the number is probably much greater than that, they add.
“Deer typically follow the same migration routes every year,” said DWR Wildlife Migration Initiative coordinator Daniel Olson. “Many of those routes include roadways, which the deer will often cross regardless of traffic. However, putting up fences can limit the migration opportunities for deer and other wildlife, and it’s not possible to fence every stretch of highway across the state. So it is important to ensure the passage of wildlife in these areas through the installation of properly placed wildlife crossings.”
They said studies have shown a 90 percent reduction in wildlife/vehicle collisions where a crossing or structure has been implemented.
In addition to the wildlife overpass in Parlays Canyon, structures such as fences and culverts have been erected in central and southern Utah.
(Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)