The Wyoming Game & Fish Department gives $500,000 for the construction of Johnson County wildlife crossing
A wildlife crossing project in Johnson County aimed at reducing vehicle-animal collisions has received $500,000 from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. The $3.8 million project is slated to begin just north of Kaycee and run along 15 miles of Interstate 25 toward Buffalo.
Sara DiRienzo, a spokeswoman for the Game & Fish, said that stretch of interstate is known for being a problematic section of roadway.
“"It was prioritized because it does have a high vehicle collision rate," she said. "But also, we had such great partnerships throughout, there was a lot of really good local support, from the county to private landowners, and so some of this work was able to move a little bit faster because of that."
DiRienzo noted that there are multiple wildlife crossing projects proposed throughout Wyoming. Various levels of funding and engineering are required for each. Much of the costs in Johnson County are centered on posts, fencing, and gates that will funnel animals, especially mule deer, through existing culverts and underpasses.
"There's a bunch of them around the state that were identified by a team in 2017, and so this is one of those projects that they've been working on getting funding for," DiRienzo said. "It's one of the major projects—it's in the top 10."
In total, there were 17 different funding sources that helped contribute to the I-25 Kaycee to Buffalo project. These not only included state and local governments, but also conservation organizations and private citizens.
DiRienzo stated there is a local population of deer that live in the project area whose travel patterns have been studied by a research team. She said that the project is cost-effective for what its stated purpose is and will provide great benefit to both motorists and animals alike.
"This section of road was pinpointed just based on the GPS data," she said. "So, we know that improving this stretch of road will make a huge difference for wildlife."
DiRienzo said the travel patterns of wildlife make this project all that more important.
"What we know about the [mule] deer in this area is that they cross the road several times a day," she noted. "The structures will be able to keep the deer moving back and forth across the road without interfering with the traffic on the interstate."
Bids on the project are set to take place in February 2022 with construction possibly beginning in the spring.