NDOT/NDOW Mark Milestone in Roadway Animal Crossing Safety Efforts
ELKO, Nev. – This month’s completion of Nevada Department of Transportation safety crossings on Interstate 80 at Pequop Summit marks a milestone in state efforts to help keep motorists and wildlife safe on state roadways.
This month, NDOT substantially completed a project to construct two safety crossings near the Pequop Summit to carry wildlife over I-80 and help reduce potentially dangerous vehicle-animal collisions. In recent years, one motorist death, 12 injuries and more than 200 wildlife-vehicle collisions have been reported to NDOT in the area, representing half of all reported wildlife-vehicle collisions along the entire length of I-80 in the state. Spanning both directions of interstate and reaching approximately 200 feet in length, the crossings mark the culmination of a multiyear, multiagency effort to install over and undercrossings to reduce collisions as deer cross the roadways while migrating between the Jarbridge and Pequop mountain ranges.
The crossings are a finishing piece to a regional approach to improving traffic safety and habitat connectivity. Since 2010, nine crossings have been installed on I-80 between Wendover and Wells and U.S. 93 north of Wells in northeastern Nevada to reduce potentially dangerous vehicle-animal collisions. The wildlife overpasses are covered with native soil and vegetation to replicate the natural environment and encourage crossing by deer and other animals. Deer fencing is installed on both sides of the crossings to help direct animals to the crossings. NDOT and the Nevada Department of Wildlife partnered to identify the most critical deer migration and roadway crossings points, including GPS collars installed by NDOW to track the migratory movements of hundreds of deer. Research conducted by the University of Nevada, Reno shows that, during the first four years in which the U.S. 93 safety crossings were installed, more than 35,000 mule deer used a safety crossing during their seasonal migrations; keeping them off the road and helping prevent potential collisions with vehicles.
“Not only are the roadways safer for motorists, but we are ensuring the corridors that mule deer and other wildlife use to get from their summer ranges to their critical winter ranges remain intact,” NDOW Game Biologist Kari Huebner explained. “For mule deer in northeast Nevada, the trek from summer range to winter range may be as long as 110 miles. Strategic placement of the crossings has facilitated the road crossings for these deer on not only U.S. 93, but I-80 as well. Every deer that uses one of the wildlife overpasses or undercrossings is one less that may be hit and killed on the highway and could possibly cause damage or injury to motorists. Through these partnerships, we have ensured safer roadways for Nevada motorists and healthy wildlife populations into the future.“
Sandra Jacobson, wildlife biologist and member of ARC (Animal Road Crossing) Solutions, said, "We support NDOT's leadership in constructing wildlife overpasses on I-80. We know from many studies that wildlife crossing structures with fencing can reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions by up to 95%, saving both human injury and property damage that cost American taxpayers over $8 billion annually. Another great benefit of the I-80 wildlife overpasses is that we're helping mule deer to reconnect an historically important migration route, and that helps Nevada hunters and everyone who values healthy ecosystems." ARC Solutions is a collaborative group that assists agencies in mitigating animal crashes by sharing information on proven mitigation solutions.
DRIVING SAFELY IN WILDLIFE-PRONE AREAS
· Obey all speed limits, traffic signs and regulations.
· Wear seatbelts and limit distractions while driving.
· Heed animal warning signs. Be alert for the potential of wildlife, particularly where wildlife warning signs are posted.
· Actively scan all sides of the road as you drive and look for any signs of wildlife.
· Slow down or otherwise adjust driving speeds if necessary to help reduce the chance and impact of an animal collision.
· Remember that many accidents are not due to colliding with wildlife but are the result of driving into another car or truck in the opposite lane while trying to avoid colliding with the animal.
· Herd animals such as deer and elk travel in groups. If you see one deer, there is a strong likelihood that others may be nearby or in other locations along the road.
· Use your vehicle’s high beams at night to view the roadway ahead when there is no oncoming traffic.