From the border of eastern Utah to western Nebraska, Interstate-80 cuts a 402.8-mile path across southern Wyoming. For cars and trucks, it’s the quickest way to traverse the state. For deer, pronghorn antelope, elk and other wildlife, I-80 is a migration-stopping wall.
Thanks to funding from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and a number of other partners, the Wyoming Migration Initiative at the University of Wyoming recently released a 12-minute film that documents the immense challenge the massive highway poses for wildlife.
“I’ve met people who say that I-80 is just a whole lot of nothing but, to me, the history of this road and its impact on wildlife is just fascinating,” said Gregory Nickerson, writer and filmmaker with the Wyoming Migration Initiative, told the Gillette News Record. “You start to notice places where the elk, deer and pronghorn gather; the trails they make in the snow and along fences; and where they get hit trying to cross.”
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department jointed forces with the Wyoming Department of Transportation and other partners to take action. They used mapping developed by researchers to build underpasses, overpasses and high fencing.
“Solving this problem is very doable for Wyoming. We know how to map where the migrations are, where they cross the interstate, and what kinds of crossing structures and fences are needed to get animals flowing again across southern Wyoming,” added Nickerson.
Though there is more work to do, the structures so far improved efforts by migrating wildlife to reach vital habitat at different times of the year as well as reduced the propensity of wildlife-vehicle collisions, most of which are deadly.
(Video source: Wyoming Migration Initiative)