WGFD answers, ‘Why build wildlife overpasses if they are so expensive?’

JACKSON, Wyo. — In Wyoming there are 6,000 documented collisions with big game annually. A wildlife overpass is one of many solutions wildlife managers and transportation engineers may recommend to help prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions and reduce barriers for season movements. While overpasses are a costly infrastructure investment for wildlife, they are a unique and indispensable tool for preventing crashes and re-establishing biological connectivity for herds.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Wyoming Department of Transportation acknowledge overpasses are expensive. On a two-lane road the cost ranges from $6 to $14 million for the structure. An interstate wildlife overpass can be pricier at $20 to $30 million.

Because they are expensive, Game and Fish and WYDOT only recommend overpasses when they are justifiable, suited to the species and the location. Often, lower-cost solutions are the first consideration to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. Those might include fencing, using existing underpasses, variable speed limits, signs for drivers or mowing the rights of way.

Most important, an overpass must meet wildlife’s needs. Any road modifications for wildlife are supported by data and other on-the-ground conditions. That starts with sometimes decades of research on the movements of big game like elk, deer or pronghorn. Biologists will analyze GPS-collar data to learn how many animals are crossing and the species, as well as the frequency and location of crossings and collisions.

When overpasses are placed in the right location they have been proven to be 80 to 90 percent effective in reducing collisions. They work! You can support wildlife crossing efforts by purchasing a Wyoming Wildlife Conservation License Plate or donating to crossing efforts. 

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