Wyoming breaks ground on underpasses for Jackson Hole wildlife

It’s finally happening! Earlier this month, Wyoming broke ground on a project we’ve been working on for nearly 10 years: Constructing underpasses to help keep people from hitting deer, elk, and other wildlife on Highway 89/191 just south of Jackson (WY).

This three-phase, $100 million project – 17 years in the making – will eventually build six underpasses for wildlife, two fish passages, and numerous culverts for smaller animals.

 

Why is GYC so excited about a Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) highway project? Because we’ve all seen road kill, and most of us know someone who’s hit a deer. Nearly half of us have been in accidents like this ourselves. Last year, WYDOT and others recorded 335 total animals killed on highways in Teton County. (And these counts may be on the low end of the actual numbers of animals killed by cars – studies have shown that up to half of deer-car collisions go unreported.) These new underpasses will keep drivers safe and help animals get safely from Point A to Point B.

And the best part about these wildlife crossing structures? They work. In Wyoming, Montana, and Canada, underpasses and overpasses, combined with high fences that funnel animals to the crossings, have reduced animal-car accidents by nearly 90 percent.

That includes this pronghorn overpass outside Pinedale (WY) at Trappers Point, which is a local proven example of how effective these crossings are. This video shows pronghorn (at 2:29) moving over the highway at Trappers Point to reach pastures they’ve used for millennia.

 

 We applaud WYDOT and Teton County for keeping both drivers and animals safe on our highways and using proven, science-backed ways to do that.

And we thank all of our partners in the Safe Wildlife Crossings Initiative. We’ve all worked in collaboration with WYDOT to make highways safer for drivers and keep wildlife alive. In addition to being part of the public process around this project, we and our partners ground-truthed WYDOT’s locations by training remote camera traps at these places. Our partners include the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, and the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation. This project was generously supported by Teton Conservation District and Cross Charitable Foundation, and made possible through the Wyoming Department of Transportation.

-- Beth Kampschror, Communications Coordinator