TSS 4th and 5th graders investigate wildlife-vehicle collisions

JACKSON, Wyo. — When 4th and 5th graders at Teton Science Schools’ (TSS) Mountain Academy learned that HWY 22 is a problematic area for wildlife-vehicle collisions, they wanted to help “Give Wildlife a Brake”.

With science teacher, Bari Bucholz, they embarked on a Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions project-based unit. As a culmination to the project, two reflective elk silhouettes have recently been installed on the TSS Jackson Campus property along the north side of HWY 22.

“What really enhanced the project was all the collaboration with many community partners. We are grateful for the work they are all doing to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions,” said Bucholz.

The class worked closely with Renee Siedler, of the JH Wildlife Foundation. Students are still actively receiving data from her trail camera. The class helped choose the location and installed it on campus in the fall. They took initiative and raised funds to purchase an additional trail camera because they wanted to efficiently and effectively continue to collect and analyze data.

The Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation reported 28 moose were killed on roads in Teton County from May 2018 through April 2019. During 2010 and 2011, the worst moose-vehicle collision year on record in Teton County, 33 moose-vehicle collisions were recorded over a 12-month period. An average year experiences around 18 moose-vehicle collisions in Teton County. “This is a significant concern for sustaining a healthy moose herd in Jackson Hole that is only several hundred strong at best,” warned Renee Seidler, Executive Director of JHWF.

Morgan Graham of the Teton Conservation District was also instrumental to the project. He engaged the students by sharing infrared trail cam footage taken from testing roadside reflectors along heavy migration corridors of mule deer. Seeing live video made this community issue real for the students and took the project to a whole new level.

Heather Overholser, Director of Teton County Public Works, joined the class to share how the County supports wildlife crossings, both presently and moving forward. It was discovered that in 2023, construction on four separate underpasses will begin. These crossings are at the HWY 22/390 intersection and Snake River Bridge on HWY 22. Additionally, WYDOT is currently finishing a project on S. HWY 89 with six wildlife underpasses.

Additionally, the location west of Coyote Canyon Road on HWY 22 is the second-highest priority in the Teton County Master Plan and has future plans for mitigating wildlife conflict. Amy Ramage, Teton County Engineer, shared potential renderings to give the students visual ideas of what the underpasses and overpasses might look like. After she extended the offer to the students to host and manage the reflective elk silhouettes, the class used the Teton County GIS mapping tool to determine the most effective location and carefully considered collision hotspots. Bland Hoke, of Bland Design, created the life-size elk masterpieces and helped install them, as did Chris Colligan with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

The unit’s main contributors were the Mountain Academy 4th and 5th-grade class.

“One of the project’s highlights was the engagement of students while they were analyzing data to determine what species (large mammals) and which highways (WY 390, WY 22, and HWY 89) are identified as hotspots,” said Bucholz. “These children are our future wildlife biologists, conservationists, engineers, artists, educators, and community members who truly want to make a difference. It takes a village and this project is a great example of how local partnerships greatly enhance real-world education at Mountain Academy, while simultaneously making meaningful contributions to our community.”

About The Author

Buckrail @ Caroline

Caroline Chapman is a Community News Reporter who recently made Jackson home. Born and raised in Connecticut, she enjoys reading non-fiction, skiing, hiking, and playing piano in her downtime. She is most passionate about delivering and pursuing stories that directly impact the lives of individuals in the community. Her favorite aspect about living in Jackson is the genuine admiration that Wyomingites share for the land and the life that it sustains.

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