WILDLIFE

Feds give Utah $5.5M to build wildlife crossings near Kanab

Dec 7, 2023, 3:08 PM | Updated: 3:29 pm

wildlife overpasses...

Members of the media tour a wildlife overpass on I-80 in Parleys Canyon. Photo: Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The federal government is giving Utah big money to build wildlife crossings above or below busy and deadly interstates.

The Utah Department of Transportation will receive a nearly $5.5 million grant to build three wildlife underpasses near Kanab as part of the US-89 Safety Corridor Project.

The area has seen 72 wildlife-vehicle collisions in the last 5 ½ years, including one fatality, UDOT reports.

In December 2018, UDOT unveiled the largest wildlife overpass in Utah. Spanning 320-by-50 feet, the bridge towers over all six lanes of I-80 in Summit County. It allows moose, elk, raccoons, and deer to migrate safely across.

Do wildlife bridges work as intended? 

Matt Howard, UDOT’s natural resources manager, told KSL NewsRadio that his department places video cameras on both sides of a proposed crossing and waits for wildlife.

 

“If they decide to cross, we call that a success,” he said,  “and if they approach it and, for whatever reason, they decide it doesn’t look safe enough or it scares them, and they decide not to use that, we call that a failure.”

Howard added UDOT’s success-vs.-failure ratio for wildlife crossings is about 90%.

How to train wildlife to use crossings

Fencing is used to funnel wildlife toward crossings, Howard said. 

“Over time they will start to train their young. And so then we’ll notice a multi-generational effect where the animals just go straight to the crossing,” he said. “They don’t have to find it anymore [and] becomes part of their regular-movement patterns and just part of their commute.”

Vehicle-wildlife collisions

Howard said UDOT employs contractors to travel freeways and highways to remove the carcasses of dead animals. The contractor marks the location where the collision occurred; that information is entered into a state database.

“It helps us identify areas where there are hotspots with collisions,” he said.

Drive safely at dawn and dusk

Most collisions between vehicles and deer occur during their mating season or rut in October and November. 

“They’re not paying much attention to anything else. Dawn and dusk are really the scariest times to be driving because that’s when wildlife is the most active, and it’s when humans have the least visibility,” Howard said.

In the United States, there are more than 1 million automobile accidents per year involving wildlife, racking up more than $8 billion in medical costs and vehicle repairs, as reported by the National Geographic.

 Automobile collisions kill more than a million animals every day, making them the leading cause of death for many vertebrate species, according to some estimates.”

 

Related: UDOT begins Bangerter Highway construction to improve traffic flow

 

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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Feds give Utah $5.5M to build wildlife crossings near Kanab