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Utah pitches in to help with wildlife migration

Utah News Connection
Utah News Connection

Two state agencies have teamed up to make safer wildlife migration a priority in Utah.

The Utah Wildlife Migration Initiative relies heavily on GPS tracking data received from mammals, birds and fish, which gives coordinators a good picture of where animals are spending time, the routes they take and areas where safe migration routes are needed.

It is a joint project of the state's Division of Wildlife Resources and Department of Transportation.

Blair Stringham, wildlife migration initiative coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said they have now completed more than a hundred projects and for them to be effective, they have to align with animals' tendencies and behaviors.

"Some of the really cool things we have done though, we've been able to install overpasses, which are essentially bridges going over roadways so animals can move back and forth," Stringham explained. "They've been really successful, with a lot of different animal species."

Stringham pointed out they have also been able to install underpasses, as well as fencing projects to keep wildlife off roads. They have even found ways to help fish move from one stretch of river to other tributaries if they were cut off by roadways.

Stringham emphasized helping animals migrate can save their lives in the process. Even so, about 4,900 deer were killed last year due to vehicle collisions. Stringham acknowledged many people do not realize the material damage which results from these accidents can add up quickly. He added keeping wildlife off the roads keeps people safer, too, and the evidence shows the projects are helping.

"We tend to see a huge improvement in the number of collisions with wildlife when we do these kinds of projects," Stringham observed. "We've seen anywhere from 75% to 90% success on most of these."

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources recently released an app, called the "Utah Roadkill Reporter." It allows anyone to report animals killed on the road as they come across them. Stringham stated it helps contractors locate and remove carcasses, and the data is also used to plan future projects to help prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions.