Underpasses working well for migrating deer
by Wyoming Game & Fish
February 6, 2010
Cameras installed at eight highway underpasses in southwest Wyoming continue to reveal how successful the underpasses are, as thousands of animals use them to migrate across state highways. The highway underpasses were installed to reduce the number of motorist collisions with migrating wildlife and reduce the number of wildlife mortalities, especially mule deer. Between 2000 and 2008, seven highway underpasses were constructed in Nugget Canyon on U.S. highway 30, between Kemmerer and Cokeville. The eighth underpass was completed in September 2009 on Highway 789 north of Baggs.
Green River wildlife management coordinator Mark Zornes says both the Nugget Canyon and Baggs highway underpasses continue to function very well.
"The Nugget Canyon project continues to function exceptionally well" Zornes said. "Between Oct. 1, 2009 and Dec. 22, 2009, a total of 6,154 deer moved south through the underpasses and 432 moved from south to north. Other wildlife, including elk and moose, are also using the underpasses. The underpass at mile post 30.5 continues to lead the pack, with nearly 50 percent of the crossings. However, this is the oldest underpass, completed in 2000."
According to Zornes, 3,279 deer passed through the Baggs underpass which was completed in September, 2009; 2,818 of those deer moved westward to winter range. "This underpass nearly equaled theuse of the most heavily used underpass in Nugget Canyon which is 10 years old," Zornes said. "The vast majority of deer have completed their migration to winter range and vehicle mortalities are down significantly from the previously year."
These projects are a success although more structures are needed. Additional sites have been selected for installation of underpasses in future years.
Installation of the highway underpasses is a joint project between the Wyoming Department of Transportation, (WYDOT) Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative, the Wyoming Natural Resources Trust Fund, Little Snake River Conservation District, private landowners and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
"These highway underpass projects are a welcome sight to those folks interested in reducing habitat fragmentation," said Zornes. "There are many people and entities to thank for the success of the underpasses. However, we would be remiss if we did not specifically thank WYDOT Wildlife Specialist Thomas Hart and WYDOT highway crews and engineering personnel in both the District 1 and District 3 Offices."