Chelsie Wardle: Most people don’t think of a wildlife vehicle collision as a life changing event… But for my family, it was.

Art Credit: Lucius Clark

I was traveling about 65 miles per hour in my Lincoln Town Car with my youngest daughter in the passenger seat when a deer jumped out in front of us. Fortunately, my then husband had told me repeatedly to not swerve if a deer jumped out in front of me. I listened to my husband in that moment, and I braced myself for impact. 

My Lincoln Town Car was a solid piece of steel with leather seats. It was incredibly sturdy- I used to refer to it as my “living room on wheels.” Luckily, my vehicle did it’s job protecting myself and my daughter from harm, and my daughter and I walked away from the accident without a scratch on us.

I am glad that I took my ex-husband’s advice. If I would have swerved, I could have very easily flipped my car into the river bottoms that my daughter and I were driving by- which could have seriously injured or killed both of us. Even more so, I was glad that I was in such a huge vehicle- if I hadn’t been, I am sure my daughter and I would be dead right now. 

However, this wasn’t the win you would expect it to be. 

The deer that was unfortunate enough to jump in front of me not only totaled my car, but it met a very violent and bloody death. Witnessing this gruesome death served to be an incredibly traumatic experience for my then 10 year old daughter. 

She had a hard time getting in vehicles after the accident, and even after she got her driver’s license, it took her a year to be able to have the courage to get onto the freeway or highways on her own. 

During a time when my child should have been excited about her new found freedom, she was instead terrified at the possibility of striking another animal or being involved in a more serious accident.

Many people do not think of wildlife vehicle collisions as a life changing event, but for my family, it was. Wildlife crossings have been shown to reduce these collisions by up to 90% where placed. I hope that our state continues to invest in these crossings to ensure another family doesn’t not have to go through what mine did. 

-Chelsie Wardle, Pleasant Grove, UT. 

How have wildlife vehicle collisions impacted your life? Share your story with us here: https://savepeoplesavewildlife.org/get-involved/

Save People Save Wildlife Advances Wildlife and Motorist Safety in Conjunction with the Utah Department of Transportation and the Summit County Council

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: SAVE PEOPLE SAVE WILDLIFE ADVANCES WILDLIFE AND MOTORIST SAFETY IN CONJUNCTION WITH THE UTAH DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION AND THE SUMMIT COUNTY COUNCIL

Ralph Hottinger, President of Save People Save Wildlife (Left) presenting Rob Stewart, UDOT District 2 Regional Director (right), with a community fundraised check to continue building the wildlife fencing necessary to the continued success of the Parley’s Canyon Wildlife Overpass. 

August 23, 2021, Park City, UT- On Thursday, August 19, 2021, Save People Save Wildlife signed their fourth contract with the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) to build an additional mile of wildlife fencing along I-80, brining our state closer to closing the gap between the wildlife overpass at Parleys Summit and Kimball Junction.

This represents the fourth mile of wildlife fencing Save People Save Wildlife, through the generous contributions of the community, has co-funded with UDOT.

“Since our founding in 2015, residents of Park City have come together to raise $168,000, of their own money to fund the additional wildlife fencing and wildlife escape ramps through our organization that help keep wildlife off our roads and direct them to use the Parley’s Wildlife Overpass,” said Ralph Hottinger, the President for Save People Save Wildlife. “We are still seeing large mammals such as elk, deer and moose failing to use the crossing, as they are traveling farther up the freeway, circumventing the overpass, and crossing I-80, causing wildlife vehicle collisions. Ensuring the construction of additional wildlife fencing will be crucial to the ongoing success of the Parley’s overpass, keeping both our wildlife and our motorists safe.”

Although the Parley’s wildlife crossing has shown great success in reducing animal vehicle collisions thus far, closing the gap will eliminate wildlife vehicle collisions and make I-80 safer for drivers and wildlife. Wildlife crossings, along with corresponding fencing, cattle guards and wildlife escape ramps, have been demonstrated to reduce  wildlife vehicle collisions by up to 90% where they have been placed.

Wildlife mitigation measures such as crossings and corresponding fencing are a blessing for Utahns.  Between 2008- 2017 there was an average of 3,110 crashes reported in our state with 2,756, or 88.6%, of those crashes resulting from collisions with wildlife. These wildlife vehicle collisions result in death, injury, and approximately $138 million annually in costs to Utahns. The addition of new crossings and corresponding fencing in identified wildlife vehicle collision hotspots will help reduce these dangerous and costly collisions. 

Additionally, such mitigation measures are crucial to protecting the migratory paths of Utah’s native wildlife. If wildlife cannot move between habitats freely to find food, water, and mates, they will perish. 

For example, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR), under the direction of  Secretarial Order 3362, selected 50 mule deer in the Kamas/ Chalk Creek area in December of 2018. 

The selected deer were then fitted with GPS tracking collars to better understand their migratory movements. Unfortunately, the survival rate of these deer was extremely low with only half of the 50 mule deer surviving, causing UDWR to have to redo the study. 

Many of the mule deer suffered from a lack of food and water, and those that tried to make it to greener pastures were killed on I-80. Only one of the collared mule deer made it across one of Utah’s busiest interstates in the Kamas/Chalk Creek area. 

I-80 serves as a treacherous man-made barrier for wildlife, and implementing wildlife crossings will help reduce the impact such barriers have on the ability for wildlife to traverse their landscapes freely. In fact, a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation found that one of the greatest threats to the survival of 21 threatened and endangered species nationally are wildlife vehicle collisions

The importance of these mitigation measures can not be understated for the life and happiness of both Utah residents and wildlife. As such, Save People Save Wildlife has been successfully advocating for additional monies for these life saving measures. 

On Wednesday, August 18, 2021, the Summit County Council adopted Resolution 2021-10, which will give the Summit County voters the opportunity to vote on the issuance of a bond not to exceed $50,000,000, to finance the acquisition of open space, conservation easements and the construction of recreational amenities and environmental and wildlife mitigation measures and related improvements this November. 

Save People Save Wildlife, prior to the vote, advocated that wildlife mitigation measures be included in the resolution. SPSW commends the Summit County Council for its decision to include measures to protect wildlife habitat and wildlife mobility.

Although the resolution still needs input from Summit County voters on November 2, 2021, the resolution comes at a timely manner as a recent poll conducted by the College of Colorado found that 89% of Utah voters believe elected officials should find the money to protect our state’s land, water and wildlife

“Utahns are starting to see the benefits of wildlife crossings and other wildlife mitigation measures that help keep our roads safe,” said Hottinger. “We commend UDOT and the Summit County Council for listening to the voices of Utahns everywhere and investing in these critical mitigation measures that help protect the migratory paths of our wildlife and save the lives of our residents, both two- and four- legged.”

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Additional Resources

See Utah Wildlife Action Plan (Attached)

 

Contact

Ralph Hottinger, President, SPSW: 435-649-5553

Lorelei Combs, Vice President, SPSW: 301-440-6324

Erin Ferguson, Secretary, SPSW: 801-891-9812

General Contact: savepeoplesavewildlife@gmail.com

 

About Save People Save Wildlife

Save People Save Wildlife (SPSW), a registered 501(c)(3), was founded in 2015 by a group of local residents who were alarmed by the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions taking place along the gateway to Park City, I-80. Save People Save Wildlife has engaged in extensive advocacy efforts, including an ongoing key partnership with UDOT, which includes raising $168,000.00 from generous donors and community members for four miles of wildlife fencing near the Jeremy Ranch Exit, which then stimulated acceleration the construction of the wildlife overpass bridge at Summit Park and installation of cattle guards at Summit Park and Jeremy Ranch exits. Learn more at www.savepeoplesavewildlife.org

Utah’s wildlife is dying from the inability to find food and water. Here’s how we can help:

Photo Credit: Canva Library

Utah is currently one of the fastest growing states in the country and it’s easy to see why. Between our national parks, coveted economy, and best snow on earth, it’s no wonder people are lining up to move here. But did you know that we also share this great state with over 20,000 Mule Deer and over 15,000 Pronghorn Antelope?

Every year these big game animals migrate from the higher mountainous elevations to lower regions following the growth of plant life and water runoff from spring to summer, fall to winter. As we continue to grow and build new roads and structures, it’s hard to not see the impact we have on these migratory animals. 

As we grow as a state, we create more and more man- made barriers that make it difficult for our wildlife to navigate their habitats freely in search of food, water, and other resources crucial for their survival. 

To further study the impacts man- made barriers have caused for our wildlife, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR), under the direction of  Secretarial Order 3362, selected 50 mule deer in the Kamas/ Chalk Creek area in December of 2018. 

The selected deer were then fitted with GPS tracking collars to better understand their migratory movements. Unfortunately, the survival rate of these deer was extremely low with only half of the 50 mule deer surviving, causing UDWR to have to redo the study. 

Many of the mule deer suffered from a lack of food and water, and those that tried to make it to greener pastures were killed on I-80. Only one of the collared mule deer made it across one of Utah’s busiest interstates in the Kamas/Chalk Creek area. 

If wildlife cannot move between habitats freely to find water, food, and mates, they will perish. I-80 serves as a treacherous man-made barrier for wildlife, choking them off from vital resources.

Furthermore, wildlife serves as a dangerous obstacle for Utah drivers. Between 2008- 2017 there was an average of 3,110 crashes reported in our state with 2,756 of those crashes resulting from collisions with wildlife. On average, these wildlife vehicle collisions result in death, injury, and approximately $138 million annually in property damage. 

Luckily, there is a cost effective and scientific- solution that has been proven to help reduce wildlife vehicle collisions and improve habitat connectivity for Utah’s wildlife. Wildlife crossings with corresponding fencing have been shown to reduce wildlife vehicle collisions by 90%. 

Investing in wildlife crossings and wildlife fencing will not only help protect our wildlife, but it will help make our roads safer while saving the lives of Utahns as well as millions in damages that occur annually from these collisions.