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More wildlife crossings may be coming soon to the Mountain West

Can Pac Swire/ Flickr Creative Commons

News brief: 

Anyone who has lived in the Mountain West long enough has probably had a near miss with a deer or elk on a roadway – or been unlucky and hit one. Vehicle-animal collisions injure about 26,000 people a year and cause at least $8 billion in damages nationwide, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Now, state and federal officials are increasingly looking to reduce those costly accidents. They want to invest in more wildlife crossings on highways to limit collisions between vehicles and animals.

Advocates for the infrastructure, like Matt Skroch with Pew, say it’s a win-win for communities in the region. One such crossing in Colorado reduced collisions by about 90 percent in that location, according to the state’s department of transportation.

“They make sense for wildlife and make sense for drivers. And they actually make good dollars and cents, too,” he said.

The Biden administration is spending $350 million for projects like animal crossings, according to E&E News. There are also local plans all over the West, including near Denver, western Wyoming and the highway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

Skroch said it’s exciting that politicians are beginning to recognize the value of wildlife crossings. But, he and other policy experts recently called for more consideration of climate change as government officials plan infrastructure projects. He said drought, wildfires and floods cause animals to change their migration patterns, and research needs to remain ahead of the curve.

“We know where to put them now, but science can also help answer some important questions about where these structures [will] be best cited in the future as this climate continues to change,” Skroch said.

Collisions between wildlife and vehicles are also estimated to kill around one million animals per year.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2023 Wyoming Public Radio. To see more, visit Wyoming Public Radio.

Will Walkey
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