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Campaign Pushes For Wildlife Crossings In Teton County

Chris Servheen

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.

A multi-media journalist, Rebecca Huntington is a regular contributor to Wyoming Public Radio. She has reported on a variety of topics ranging from the National Parks, wildlife, environment, health care, education and business. She recently co-wrote the one-hour, high-definition documentary, The Stagecoach Bar: An American Crossroads, which premiered in 2012. She also works at another hub for community interactions, the Teton County Library where she is a Communications and Digital Media Specialist. She reported for daily and weekly newspapers in Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and Wyoming for more than a decade before becoming a multi-media journalist. She completed a Ted Scripps Fellowship in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado in 2002. She has written and produced video news stories for the PBS series This American Land (thisamericanland.org) and for Assignment Earth, broadcast on Yahoo! News and NBC affiliates. In 2009, she traveled to Guatemala to produce a series of videos on sustainable agriculture, tourism and forestry and to Peru to report on the impacts of extractive industries on local communities.
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