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New highway crossing for deer near Wendover

Deer on completed overpass in Nevada.
Michael Murphy, NDOT

Deer near the Utah-Nevada border will soon have a safer way to cross Interstate 80. A land bridge built to resemble the slope of a mountain is under construction outside of West Wendover in Nevada.

Several thousand mule deer are thought to migrate through the area each fall, creating hazardous conditions for the animals and vehicles. Michael Murphy from the Nevada Department of Transportation said the decision to build the 2.75 million dollar structure was based on a cost-benefit analysis that looked at human fatalities and damage done to cars.

“A deer hit costs the average person over 3,000 dollars. Unfortunately, that’s really based on white-tailed deer because that’s what mostly are hit in the United States. We know that the mule deer is much heavier than a white-tailed deer—and that’s what we have out here. We suspect our costs in repairing from a mule deer hit are in excess of 3,000 dollars,” said Murphy.

The 200-foot-long tunnels have been erected over a section of I-80 and will be covered with rock and soil. The deer will cross over this fenced-in overpass and, unless they are close to the edge, will not be visible to traffic.

Crossings are built in areas where collisions are common. Murphy said that in areas where passes have been constructed, deer-vehicle accidents have been reduced to nearly zero—that’s with 16,000 deer using the crossings.

Construction on an over crossing in Nevada.
Credit Michael Murphy, NDOT
Construction on an over crossing in Nevada.

NDOT is looking to construct additional under and over-crossings for deer in other areas of high-risk. The overpass is predicted to be completed in October.