Newly published documents from the Idaho Transportation Department raise questions about its plan to install animal detection devices along Targhee Pass. The documents posted by Idaho Wildlife Federation last week include a survey of other animal detection systems throughout the U.S. and Canada that showed mixed success for the devices as well as a report from Idaho Department of Fish and Game that pushed for animal overpasses and fencing instead of the detection system.
Fall is here, and the colder weather has deer, elk, pronghorn, and moose migrating across Highway 20. Read a few of the experiences of drivers who struck or witnessed wildlife being struck and killed on Highway 20 between October 1-27, 2018:
"We were following a truck that had hit a calf moose. When we approached the calf, it seemed to have a broken spine and was trying to crawl away on its front legs. We called 911 and got authorization to dispatch the calf. It was about 250-300lbs."
"A female mule deer ran in front of me and the collision broke its back, I think. It tried to get up, and I couldn't watch it suffer so I put it down."
"Large cow elk, 5 or 6 of them, running across the road and a female hit the front driver side of the truck. She broke her right hind leg in multiple places from the cannon bone down to the ankle and pastern. She was laying in the middle of the road. I didn't catch the person's name, but a guy on seen put her down with a shot to the back of the head and drug her off the road."
"This was a very large doe whitetail that appeared to still be in milk. She had a full bag, I'm assuming she had a fawn, maybe even two due to the milk bag size and content."
(For additional roadkill maps, go to the Blog page.)
"My family owns a home in Island Park. I use Highway-20 frequently. But don’t drive at night. Why? Because we might hit a large animal and at best destroy our vehicle, or at worst get killed. I have had several near misses between Island Park and Rexburg, but sadly for some, it’s not a near miss. My longtime neighbor and personal friend was killed at age 34 on Highway-20 in a collision with wild game. His family lost him abruptly and needlessly. Accidents like his could be avoided."
(Photo by Marcel Huijser)
Wildlife-vehicle collisions have increased nationwide by 50% in the past fifteen years. Nearly one out of four of all accidents on Highway 20 through Fremont County are due to collisions with wildlife, that’s almost four times the national average. We in Fremont County have a much higher rate of collision and accidents associated with wildlife.
According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Sand Creek migration for elk, moose, and deer is one of the top five most important migrations in the state. Idaho Department of Fish and Game also acknowledges that US 20 is the largest threat to this migration.
"What we want is simple: We want to reduce the number of vehicle-wildlife collisions on Highway 20, for the safety of travelers and the survival of wildlife. We were horrified when five travelers were hospitalized because one driver failed to obey warning signs and react appropriately to vehicles stopped for elk crossing the highway. We were astounded, but so very glad, that a family of four escaped serious personal injury when hitting a bison at the base of Targhee Pass. And, we are saddened by the number of wildlife hit on US-20 each year."
Deer crossings snowy highway.
The best solution to making our roads safer are driver-safe wildlife crossings. In neighboring Pinedale, Wyoming a study by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department shows driver-safe wildlife crossings were implemented along Highway 191 and has reduced vehicle-wildlife collisions by 85 percent. In Pinedale, Wyoming about 130 mule deer were hit cars each year throughout the 1990s, but that was reduced 85 percent with driver-safe wildlife crossings. A study by the Montana State University shows that after implementing driver-safe wildlife crossings on Highway 93 in Montana, vehicle-wildlife collisions were reduced by 80 percent. The facts speak for themselves, driver-safe wildlife crossings reduce highway collisions.
Many of us in Fremont County say yes for safety. Yes for access. Yes for our economy. Yes for wildlife. And in Fremont County, yes for driver-safe wildlife crossings.
(Photo by Marcel Huijser, Missoula Montana Wildlife Crossing)
Based on local research, expert recommendations, and best available science, wildlife crossings are a proven, cost-effective solution to keep drivers safe and to aid wildlife migration in heavily travelled areas.
Sign up to learn how you can support driver-safe wildlife crossings in Fremont County!
Paid for by Citizens for Safe Highways; Randy Marrett, Treasurer.