Crossings protect wildlife and people, too.
UDOT employees understand that accommodating Utah’s beautiful earth-bound migrating creatures helps keep people safe too. Effective wildlife crossings can reduce the number of auto-wildlife crash incidents on state roads.
Deciding where to place and build structures that work for mule deer, elk, moose and other animals is a studied, multi-step process. UDOT partners with wildlife experts and uses knowledge gained by research in order to plan and build the right crossing at the right location.
Some common UDOT crossing types include fenced bridges, corrugated pipes, box culverts, underpass structures and even lines painted on the road meant to mimic an actual cattle guard. Fencing around crossing structures is also used to deter animals from using the road.
One of the main concerns wildlife experts share is about elk, who typically “refuse to go through anything,” says USU Associate Professor Dr. Patricia Cramer. A report on research conducted by Cramer in 2008 through 2010 documents some good news.
Cramer posted 35 motion-activated cameras near wildlife crossings in Utah. Out of 200,000 photos, about 20 images of elk using the crossings were captured at two locations: a pair of bridges near Beaver and a new high-arch underpass on I-70. In a phone interview, Cramer called this new information “very, very significant.”
Besides documenting elk use, Cramer’s crossing study shows some interesting trends. First, ungulates rarely use long box culvert crossing structures where exclusion fencing is absent.
Second, the mule deer repellency rate is related to the length of the crossing. Cramer explains the repellancy rate in her study as “the number of observations where mule deer attempted to enter a crossing and have turned around and left, divided by the total number of mule deer observations at the site.”
Cramer’s findings underscore the importance of studying all crossing types and features and her data will be used by UDOT to plan and build crossings to accomplish UDOT’s premier goal to improve safety. Her study will be posted on the UDOT website in the the Research Division’s section for Environmental research.
Check back this week to see a post about construction of the high-arch crossing on I-70.
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