Groups Work With Idaho to Prevent Deer Collisions

June 23, 2009

Groups in southeast Idaho are working with state and federal agencies to reduce the amount of animal carnage found on stretches of Interstate 15 and U.S. Highway 30 where vehicles and mule deer often collide.

Sean Mottishaw, chairman of the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife’s Pocatello chapter and a member of the Southeast Idaho Mule Deer Foundation, said his organizations are working with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the state Transportation Department and the Bureau of Land Management to keep more mule deer away from the two roadways.

The groups plan to double the height of fence along Blackrock Canyon, south of Pocatello, to 8 feet, Mottishaw said.

Materials previously used to prevent deer from migrating into Utah will be salvaged and used to repair fencing around wildlife areas along Highway 30 at Fish Creek Summit, near Lava Hot Springs.

“There are people who describe those areas as though they were battlefields for the Civil War because of the blood that gets splattered there on the pavement,” he told the Idaho State Journal.

Most vehicle-animal collisions aren’t severe enough to injure people, but data from the federal government show that crash deaths are increasing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said. In 1993, 101 people died in crashes involving animals. By 2000, the number was 150, and in 2007 it was 223, according to its research.

State Farm, the nation’s largest auto insurer, estimates that there were more than 1.2 million claims for damage in crashes with animals during the last half of 2007 and the first half of 2008. The company said animal strike claims have increased 14.9 percent over the past 5 years, according to IIHS.

About $80,000 has been set aside for the project to increase the height of fencing along Blackrock Canyon and the project is scheduled to start July 6, Mottishaw said.

Fish and Game wildlife managers, who estimate about 10,000 deer are struck each year on Idaho roads, said the two fencing projects have been under consideration for the past few years.

The projects became feasible because after the Idaho Transportation Department overestimated how much snowplow fuel would cost during the most recent fiscal year, resulting in unexpected savings.

Ed Bala, an engineer for the agency’s southeast district, said he used the $40,000 to buy fence posts.

“I actually am pretty convinced that it’s going to help,” Bala said. “A collaborative approach to the fencing projects was also critical,” he said.

“It’s getting harder for all of us to buy stuff because everything is getting so expensive, but I’m hoping this sets a how-to template for how to do this in the future,” Bala said. “I couldn’t do this by myself, but now that there are some partners, it makes it a possibility.”

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