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Fewer deer being killed

Deer crossing structures appear to be working

Two wildlife crossing structures have allowed more than 300 deer to cross safely under two busy roads this year.

Four deer cross safely under I-80 using a pathway under a recently constructed bridge

Deer cross safely under I-80 using a pathway under a recently constructed bridge.

Photo by Alan Keller

The two crossings—one in Box Elder County and one in Summit County—are just two examples of crossings across Utah that are reducing the number of deer that are hit and killed by vehicles.

Utah State University is leading studies to determine the effectiveness of wildlife crossing structures across the state.

Sardine Canyon

U.S. Highway 91 was widened through Sardine Canyon in the mid-1990s. When it was widened, several features, including wildlife culverts, fencing and wildlife escape ramps, were installed to try to reduce the number of deer that were hit by cars.

USU has monitored a culvert at milepost 8 continuously since 2009 using cameras on both the west and east sides of the culvert's entrance. USU's initial findings indicated that the culvert wasn't as effective as it could be. The way a fence was designed near the culvert, and gaps in the fencing farther away from the culvert, were likely to blame, researchers said.

In 2010 and 2011, personnel with the Utah Department of Transportation and the Division of Wildlife Resources, together with volunteers from the DWR's Dedicated Hunter program, repaired the gaps in the fencing. They also improved the fence in the area near and around the culvert to increase the chance that more deer would find and use the culvert.

Six months into 2012, it appears their efforts have worked. In the first six months of this year, 284 deer successfully used the culvert to cross under the busy highway.

"As deer in the area get used to the culvert," says Pam Kramer, regional habitat biologist for the DWR, "we think even more deer will use it."

Kramer says the DWR and UDOT are looking at additional ways to make the culvert even more inviting to mule deer.

Sardine Canyon is northeast of Brigham City in Box Elder County.

Echo Junction

At Echo Junction in 2012, UDOT installed two new bridges over the Weber River on Interstate 80 at the I-80/Interstate 84 interchange.

A major feature of the newly constructed bridges was the installation of soil pathways under the bridges along both sides of the river. These pathways make it easier for wildlife and people to move under the bridges.

By May 2012, the bridges were complete and wildlife fencing was in place. Next, UDOT and DWR personnel, and Dedicated Hunter program volunteers, built two wildlife escape ramps near the bridge. They also added fencing on private land to keep livestock from getting to the area under the bridge.

Although the bridge, pathways and fencing have only been in place for five to six months, and the fall migration of mule deer isn't in full swing yet, a USU study has shown that 57 deer, including 20 fawns, have already used the pathways to successfully cross under this busy interchange.

The I-80/I-84 interchange is northwest of Coalville in Summit County.

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