Wildlife Using the First Wildlife Overpass in Colorado
As the first of two construction seasons for the CO State Highway 9 Safety Project came to a close this past fall, the community that formed the grassroots effort behind funding the project celebrated the completion of the first wildlife overpass in the state. While the overpasses were a highlight of the project during the planning stages, they were also the focus of some criticism over doubts as to their effectiveness. They question on everyone’s minds was, “would wildlife actually use them?”
While studies of previous projects in Canada and Montana provided strong evidence to suggest that wildlife would use the new wildlife crossing structures, questions like this highlight the importance of follow-up monitoring in order to provide concrete answers. Even before construction began, a monitoring program was planned to gather information on wildlife mortalities both pre and post construction, as well as evidence of wildlife using the crossings.
That foresight paid off very quickly. Only weeks after the construction season shut down this fall, these pictures were taken of mule deer using the completed overpass. The newly surfaced overpass has not even grown in with seeded native vegetation, and yet animals began using it almost immediately.
Additional photos show wildlife using one of the underpasses…
…as well as the jumpouts, which are one-way ramps that allow animals trapped within the road corridor to escape by jumping to the safe side of the fence.
The second construction season will begin soon this coming spring, and once completed by the end of 2016, monitoring efforts are planned for at least the following 5 years. This will provide researchers ample time to document any changes in the number of wildlife mortalities due to vehicle collisions. And, if these photos are any indication, there is likely to be ample evidence of wildlife using the overpass structures as well.
Special thanks to CDOT, CPW and ECO-Resolutions for the photos!