WYOMING — Here in the Jackson Hole, we need no reminders about wildlife-vehicle collisions. We see them all too often and even though some efforts have been made to help educate, inform, and alleviate the problem—animals keep getting hit.

Wildlife crossings, reduced nighttime speed initiatives and better signage has helped in some of the worst areas. But more needs to be done.

“It’s spring and a lot of Wyoming wildlife are on the move, making the seasonal journey from winter to summer range, following spring ‘green-up.’  These migrations mean more wildlife will be crossing roads and highways, creating hazards for both motorists and wildlife. It’s a good time to be extra vigilant out on the roads and The Nature Conservancy has some information that may help,” says the global nonprofit dedicated to solving the planet’s biggest challenges.

TNC scientist Corinna Riginos has been mapping incidents of wildlife-vehicle collisions. With the help of WYDOT statistics, Riginos has come up with a map of hotspots across Wyoming.

Collision hotspots across Wyoming. (The Nature Conservancy, WYDOT)

 The costs of wildlife-vehicle collisions is significant

Every year, more than 6,000 deer, pronghorn, elk and moose are hit by vehicles on Wyoming’s roads. And those are the accidents we know about. Many collisions simply go unreported. These accidents cost nearly $50 million annually in damages to vehicles, human injury expenses and loss of wildlife.

Long-term solution?

Wildlife under- and overpasses, which allow animals to cross roads below or above traffic lanes, are highly effective at reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions and ensuring that animals can cross roads safely.

These wildlife crossing structures consistently reduce collisions by 80-90% and create more connected habitat for the animals. Wildlife fencing is used to guide animals to the crossing structures.

While crossing structures are by far the best solution to this problem, in some places they simply aren’t feasible. In these spots, other measures such as movable message signs that can be set up during peak wildlife crossing seasons, fence modifications and alterations to roadside vegetation that make animals more visible to drivers may be implemented.

TNC has joined with a group of public and private agencies and organizations in the Wyoming Wildlife and Roadways Initiative to study this problem and help transportation planners implement solutions.