During the winter, animals like deer and elk are on the move— migrating to more favorable habitats. Unfortunately, migration routes often cross roads and highways, leading to conflict with humans. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources plans to build more wildlife crossings this year to mitigate these conflicts.
“A lot of our species have to migrate each year," said Faith Heaton Jolley, the public information officer for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. "Typically a lot of those migration corridors cross roads and highways. That obviously puts them into conflict with people. We like to make it easier for them to cross some of these routes.”
Wildlife crossings are not a new idea – the first one in Utah was built in 1975 – but Jolley said improvements in technology since then helps DWR and UDOT develop highly effective new wildlife crossings.
“We were able to locate the best spots for these crossings because we have a program called our Wildlife Migration Initiative," Jolley said. "Each year we capture and put GPS collars on deer and on elk, and put little GPS backpacks on sage grouse and bands on other birds so we can see almost in real-time where these animals are migrating.”
After building the crossings, DWR monitors them using infrared-activated game cameras, to see if animals use them.
“That’s given us a lot of confidence to know that these are working,” Jolley said.
DWR anticipates completing a culvert underpass north of Strawberry Reservoir in Central Utah this spring. They also plan to break ground on an underpass below I-15 near Cove Fort in Millard County, and to improve an existing underpass near Leeds in Washington County, by adding additional wildlife fencing.