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.