Colorado Initiates System to Prevent Wildlife Crashes

November 11, 2009

Colorado’s Center for Native Ecosystems has announced the launch of a new website, www.I-70WildlifeWatch.org, intended to decrease the incidence of wildlife getting hit by cars on the state’s roadways.

The website will allow motorists to report wildlife they see along Colorado’s Interstate 70 between Golden and Glenwood Springs. It is sponsored by a coalition of state agencies and private groups, including the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association.

The press release provides the following information:

Motorists who see wildlife along this stretch of I-70 will be able to use the website to identify the general location where they saw the animal. After the general location is identified, the user can activate a map on the website to select the specific sighting location down to a tenth of a mile. This information will later be used by wildlife biologists and the Colorado Department of Transportation to identify locations on the interstate where animals are most frequently trying to cross.

“The first goal of I-70WildlifeWatch.org is to educate drivers about wildlife crossing issues along I-70,” said Paige Bonaker, staff biologist at Center for Native Ecosystems. “But the public will also help us identify wildlife crossing hotspots so we can plan safety measures, including public education, for these locations.”

Beth Garrison, who commutes on I-70 between Vail and Frisco every day, has been posting her wildlife sightings on the website for several days as part of a test phase of the website. “I see wildlife along the highway all the time, and I’ve often worried about them being hit on the road and causing a hazard,’ said Garrison. ‘The website has been really easy to use. I’m glad there is something I can do to help.”

November and December are the months with the highest rate of wildlife-vehicle collisions in Colorado. Colorado Wildlife on the Move has been reminding motorists to watch out for wildlife in the fall for several years.

“Fall is the time of year when wildlife, especially deer and elk, are beginning to migrate between their summer and winter habitats,” said Julia Kintsch, owner and conservation ecologist at ECO-resolutions. “More often than not, wildlife must cross roads to get between important habitat areas to support their daily and seasonal needs.”

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), November has more traffic crashes involving wildlife than any other month of the year. During the period from 1995 through 2005, there were 4,323 such crashes in November and 2,918 such crashes in December. (The lowest number of crashes during this time period occurred in February, at 1,390.) These accidents resulted in property damage, injury or, in some instances, fatalities. (It’s important to note that these numbers represent only those crashes that were reported to enforcement agencies—the actual number of wildlife-vehicle collisions is much higher.)

In that 11-year period, there were 30,245 total wildlife-vehicle collisions resulting in property damage on all Colorado roadways, according to CDOT data, collected from enforcement agencies statewide. The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association (RMIIA) reports that the average cost per claim is $2,800.

“The cost to repair vehicles has increased by more than 43 percent during the past decade,” said Carole Walker, executive director of the RMIIA. “So, when we are able to raise people’s awareness and reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions on Colorado roadways that helps make a dent in what we all pay for auto insurance, as well as make our roads safer.”

“Wildlife, whether its elk, bear or bighorn sheep, are a tremendous resource for the state of Colorado,” says Tyler Baskfield, communications manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. “We urge motorists to slow down to minimize the impact on this resource, especially on the more sensitive species like Canada lynx. Dawn and dusk are especially important times for drivers to be cautious, as that is when animals are most active and hard to see.”

“The question that we are most asked about driving and a wildlife crossing in Colorado is, ‘What do I do if I am driving and a deer runs out?’,” said Colonel James Wolfinbarger, Chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “Stay alert and slow down when you see wildlife crossing signs. The posted signs indicate that this section of the road has experienced up to five animal car crashes per mile, per year.”

The CSP advises motorists that see animals on the road to slow down, gently apply your breaks, stay in your lane — don’t swerve, and hope that the deer or other wildlife will just continue on its way.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.