Elk and other wildlife are beginning their spring migrations. Moving to summer ranges can mean crossing roads and highways, which puts wildlife at risk of being struck and killed by vehicles. But research shows that properly designed wildlife crossings can make roads safer for wildlife and for people.
Tony Clevenger has been studying wildlife crossings in the Canadian Rockies for more than 17 years, and he says the data is clear about when building crossings is cost effective.
"If there's on average 3.2 deer-vehicle collisions per kilometer per year, it's cost beneficial to have these measures in place," he said.
Once the crossing are in places, Clevenger says they are clearly effective.
"Probably the most important thing is we've found that fencing and wildlife underpasses and overpasses can reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions by 80 to 90 percent, almost down to nothing when you talk about some of the ungulate species, like elk moose and deer," he said, adding that it's not just good for wildlife. "It's not an ecological connectivity issue, but it's also about protecting motorists on our highways as well."
In Teton County, conservation groups say that vehicles kill, on average, more than a hundred mule deer every year. Estimates for elk, moose or other animals that also die on county roads are harder to come by, but they're also killed.
Using that data, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance is starting a new campaign to get wildlife crossing structures built in Teton County. Details of that campaign are on their website, www.jhalliance.org.