DWR press release
The Utah Division of Wildlife and the Utah Department of Transportation, along with other partners, are working hard to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions in the state and to help wildlife and fish to carry out important annual migrations.
The Utah Wildlife Migration Initiative was founded in 2017 to better track and study the migration patterns of different species of wildlife and fish in the state and to help them make these important journeys. Most of the data comes from animals wearing GPS tracking devices or from fish tagged with implanted transmitters.
These fish and wildlife structures vary and can include:
Viaducts, which allow wildlife to cross a causeway
Bridges, which allow vehicles to cross a river or ravine, while wildlife moves under the bridge
Culverts, which allow wildlife to cross under a causeway (the majority of wildlife crossings in Utah)
Fences, which eliminate road crossings in some areas and instead direct animals to an overpass or culvert where they can cross a road safely
Various “fish ladders” and other structures in rivers and streams that help fish migrate to different spawning grounds
Utah made history when it completed the first wildlife overpass in the United States in 1975 on I-15 near Beaver. Since then, more than 60 wildlife crossings have been installed statewide. These structures generally take several months to build, depending on the size and weather conditions.
Here are the areas where DWR and UDOT have implemented new wildlife solutions or where DWR and Trout Unlimited and other partners have installed structures to help fish migrate to Utah this year:
An old culvert has been replaced with a large baffle culvert on Dalton Creek in Morgan County. A series of stepped ponds were also created under the culvert to help Bonneville cutthroat trout achieve important spawning habitat and cooler water temperatures in the summer. The project was carried out in partnership with Trout Unlimited in September.
Work has been completed at Basin Creek to allow cutthroat trout and yellowstone blue headed suckers to pass through an irrigation bypass. The project ended in May and a blue-headed sucker – originally a fin severed in 2020, downstream of the structure – was observed upstream of the diversion after the project.
Marriott’s ditch irrigation bypass structure in the Ogden River was rebuilt in partnership with Trout Unlimited in March. Now brown trout and blue headed sucker can roam this area of the river. For more details on the project, visit the Utah’s Watershed Restoration Initiative website.
A culvert was replaced with a new one at a lower elevation to allow Bonneville Cutthroat Trout to cross Winter Quarters Creek, a small tributary of the South Fork of the Ogden River. This project was carried out in partnership with Trout Unlimited in December.
Over 100,000 feet of fencing was installed on I-15 just north of Parowan between mile post 82.25 and mile post 95. The wildlife fence project included 14 escape ramps and six jump structures for animals that inadvertently enter the highway. It was completed in November.
Wildlife / vehicle collisions
Approximately 4,518 deer have reportedly been killed in vehicle collisions this year, as of December 14, 2021. In Utah, 90% of big game killed in wildlife-vehicle collisions are deer, primarily because they are the most abundant big game. animal as it is, but also because they migrate.
“Deer generally follow the same migration routes every year,” said Daniel Olson, coordinator of the DWR Wildlife Migration Initiative. “Many of these roads cross roads, which deer will often try to cross, regardless of the traffic. However, simply putting up fences can limit migration opportunities for deer and other wildlife, and it is not possible to fence every stretch of highway across the state. It is therefore important to ensure the passage of wildlife in these areas by installing well-placed wildlife structures.
Studies have shown that there is a 90% reduction in wildlife-vehicle collisions when there is a crossing structure and fence in the area, so the DWR worked with UDOT to identify the areas where migration routes cross roads and these solutions can be implemented. The two agencies contribute to the financing of the projects and the UDOT supervises the construction and maintenance of the structures.
“In addition to reducing collisions between wildlife and vehicles, we have found that animals that would never have even approached the highway now cross safely and can access more of their historic habitat,” said Matt Howard, UDOT’s head of natural resources.
Visit the DWR website to learn more about funding these wildlife solutions and site selection.