Guest blogger Josh Metten is a Senior Naturalist with Jackson Hole EcoTour Adventures with nearly a decade of experience guiding and sharing stories about the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Thank you, Josh, for all you do for Greater Yellowstone.
After years of hard work and collaboration, the Wyoming Department of Transportation has finally released a license plate that benefits wildlife migrations and driver safety. The majority of the license plate fee goes directly to the Wildlife Conservation Fund to aid efforts throughout the state.
Everyone seems to have a story, for me it was early on Christmas Day a few years ago. While driving in the snow before dawn, a whitetail doe suddenly appeared in the road. I slammed on the brakes, but it was too late.
The deer was killed instantly, crushed underneath the vehicle. I was lucky, uninjured and with no major vehicle damage. However, collisions with wildlife aren’t cheap, costing Wyoming taxpayers an average of $50 million annually. They also cut off animals from valuable habitat, when enough animals are killed or prevented from crossing the road, they simply give up.
The Problem of Wildlife/Vehicle Collisions
In 2018, mule deer #255, stunned conservationists by completing a nearly 500-mile migratory circuit from winter to summer range and back again. Her travels, an extension of the recently discovered Red Desert to Hoback Migration (RDH), is the longest known mule deer migration on earth.
255 is a member of an elite, ultra-long-distance migratory deer herd, some 5,000 animals who follow ancient routes across the Wyoming landscape. Right now, the herd is sheltering at the low elevation Red Desert in southern Wyoming, awaiting the promise of spring. Soon, experienced females will lead their families upward, following the spring green up high into the mountains where they will fatten on summer’s bounty. This ancient tradition, passed down through the generations, has served the RDH herd well, until now.
Wyoming Wildlife Conservation License Plates
That’s why Jackson Hole EcoTour Adventures joined with our friends at the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Wyoming Wildlife Federation, and Muley Fanatic Foundation in lobbying for Wildlife Conservation License Plates, now available to Wyoming residents. The plates help fund wildlife crossings and other conservation measures which make Wyoming’s roads safer for humans and wildlife alike. EcoTour Adventures is proud to have been part of the first 500 plates purchased to date, and GYC has also purchased these plates for their Wyoming fleet of vehicles!
Protecting Wyoming’s Cultural Legacy
Wildlife crossings do more than prevent collisions, however. The windswept sagebrush sea and towering mountain ranges of Wyoming are one of the last places left in the lower 48 states where an ancient culture has persisted, uninterrupted, for thousands of years. Long before the Pyramids of Giza were built, pronghorn antelope were migrating over 100 miles out of the Jackson Hole Valley south to the Upper Green River. Each year, females lead their young along the federally protected “Path of the Pronghorn,” passing down ancient knowledge key to their survival.
Along the way, many cross specially designed overpasses, wildlife crossings at Trappers Point which keep pronghorn off busy HWY 191. Since the installation of these overpasses, biologists have observed a nearly 90% decline in wildlife collisions, protecting the “Path of the Pronghorn” and motorists alike.
Wyoming’s epic migrations, our cultural legacy, now face a diverse set of challenges. Mule deer populations statewide are down nearly 40% and car collisions are a significant factor, more deer are hit by vehicles than any other species. Wyoming Conservation License Plates won’t fully fund the habitat protection and wildlife crossings we need to assure a future for these ancient migrations, but they’re a step in the right direction.
How you can help!
Want to support wildlife crossings in Wyoming? Apply for this great looking new license plate by visiting the Wyoming Department of Transportation site and completing the PDF application for “Wildlife Conservation Plates” at the bottom of the page. The initial application fee for the plates is $180, with $150 going to the conservation fund and $30 to the specialty plate fee. Motorists will pay $50 annually as a fee for the plate.
Not a resident of Wyoming? We recommend supporting the organizations working to protect Wyoming’s great migrations including the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Wyoming Wildlife Federation, and Muley Fanatic Foundation. These three organizations were integral in passing the legislation which created the license plate last year.
Now in our 11th year of operation, Jackson Hole Ecotour Adventures leads half day, full day, and multi-day wildlife, cross country ski, and snowshoe tours in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks 365 days a year. Let us help maximize your Jackson Hole Experience Today! www.jhecotouradventures.com 307-690-9533 or firstname.lastname@example.org.