CHEYENNE, WYO. | by ERIC GALATAS – State agencies, wildlife biologists and conservation groups are convening a virtual summit to continue work aimed at reducing the number of collisions between vehicles and wildlife on Wyoming roads.
Corinna Riginos, director of science for The Nature Conservancy Wyoming Chapter, said when animals come into contact with roads, to reach habitat vital to their lives, the results can be hazardous to both animals and people, and costly.
“Wildlife-vehicle collisions are costing about $55 million per year,” Riginos explained. “In Wyoming, we are losing about 7,600 animals per year due to wildlife-vehicle collision.”
The Wyoming Wildlife and Roadways Summit brings back participants who met in 2017, along with new partners, to review successful programs, including animal over- and underpasses, which Riginos noted are 80% to 90% effective at preventing collisions.
The group also will discuss other strategies for places where crossing structures are not possible, such as modifying fences or clearing vegetation near roads, so animals can be seen by motorists.
Scott Gamo, environmental services manager for the Wyoming Department of Transportation, has been working to prioritize projects in areas with more frequent and costly crashes, and higher animal mortalities.
He said advances in GPS and radio tracking technologies have given his team more data on animal behavior.
“They show where they move across the landscape,” Gamo observed. “And if some of these crash areas coincided with important migration routes, those were rated very high in importance.”
Protecting Wyoming’s wildlife also is important for the state’s outdoor recreation economy, but funding continues to be the biggest barrier to reducing animal-vehicle collisions.
Jill Randall, big game migration coordinator for the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish Department, said she hopes the summit will re-energize successful partnerships forged over the past four years, and get new projects into the hopper.
“And we’re trying to come up with solutions to make it safer for people and result in less mortality to wildlife on the ground,” Randall remarked.