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Funds Approved To Build Wildlife Underpasses On Highway With Most Collisions

Wyoming Migration Initiative/Flickr Creative Commons

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has approved spending $1.25 million to build two wildlife underpasses in western Wyoming on Highway 189. Game and Fish's Sara DiRienzo said Wyoming Department of Transportation and other organizations are partnering on the projects because of the high number of wildlife crashes on a 28 mile stretch of road.

"It has some of the highest wildlife vehicle collisions in the state," she said. "There's an average of 117 collisions per year."

DiRienzo said that's because it intersects the proposed Wyoming Range Migration Corridor, where mule deer cross in the fall and spring on their route to and from winter range.

"There are a lot of deer who use this area, not only to get to their winter range, but during the winter they're trying to cross the highway multiple times a day," said DiRienzo.

She said all those crashes are one factor hurting the Wyoming Range herd's population growth. It's 10,000 animals short of the agency's 40,000 goal. She said underpasses could help reduce that since deer are comfortable with them.

"The underpass combined with a deer fence sort of leads deer to the safest passage that they're already accustomed to using."

The underpasses could also make the highway safer for people, too, since school buses travel the route daily as well.

The agency expects the underpasses will reduce collisions by up to 90 percent. The projects are projected to be completed by 2022.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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