Commentary

Wildlife crossings make roads safer for animals and humans

Investments in crossing structures quickly pay for themselves

April 28, 2021 12:12 pm

A mule deer buck in velvet is seen at Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge near Denver. (Ryan Moehring/USFWS/CC BY 2.0)

As a conservation biologist for Rocky Mountain Wild, I have seen firsthand how wildlife highway crossing structures improve the safety of our roads for wildlife and humans alike.

For the last five years, I have worked with a team to monitor the effectiveness of the recently built wildlife crossing structures, which includes five wildlife underpasses and two overpasses as well as wildlife exclusion fencing and escape ramps, on Colo. 9 between Silverthorne and Kremmling.

Prior to construction, wildlife-vehicle collisions accounted for 60% of all accidents reported to law enforcement. Our research shows that these structures have been successful at reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions by 90%.

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Moreover, we have documented nearly 113,000 successful crossings by mule deer, in addition to those made by elk, bears, mountain lions, moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn and even river otters.

Gov. Jared Polis’ proposed 2021 budget, which is being considered by the Colorado Legislature, includes funding and resources for the protection of wildlife corridors and improvement of highway crossings in Colorado. Pursuant to Polis’ Executive Order 2019-011, it also creates a new position at Colorado Parks and Wildlife to coordinate closely with the Colorado Department of Transportation and identify opportunities for future highway crossing projects.

This investment would not only improve wildlife conservation outcomes and public safety, it would also save money. Coloradans currently spend $80 million per year on wildlife-vehicle collisions. Wildlife crossing structures pay for themselves quickly through collisions avoided.

This investment would make Colorado a national leader in wildlife corridor conservation and provide a future where highway travel is made safer for all Coloradans and our guests.

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Paige Singer
Paige Singer

Paige Singer is a conservation biologist and habitat connectivity lead at Rocky Mountain Wild.

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