New fences on highways are reducing the number of wildlife accidents, the Colorado Department of Transportation said.
Animal-vehicle collisions in the Carbondale area of Colorado 82 fell below 100 in 2010 from the roughly 175 the previous year, and were well under 50 by 2011, it said. Such crashes from the Utah line to Vail Pass on I-70 account for nearly 14 percent of all reported collisions on that stretch.
According to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the department also put up fences and escape ramps for Interstate 70 east of Gypsum in Eagle County.
The agency said it is encouraged by the results and will begin a $4 million fencing project in another problem area for wildlife collisions, the I-70 stretch from west of Rifle to Canyon Creek.
Carbondale town Trustee Frosty Merriott said ever since the Colorado Department of Transportation built wildlife fencing along Colorado Highway 82 in the Carbondale area in 2009, “it’s made a remarkable difference in road kill.”
However, Dean Riggs, assistant northwest regional manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said it’s not all good news.
Critics said that although the fencing saves animals’ lives, it also can cut off migration patterns and reduce interaction between herds, reducing genetic diversity.
Transportation officials consult with wildlife experts and continue to study other alternatives, including reduced speed limits and higher fines in wildlife zones.
Both Riggs and Merriott think wildlife underpasses and overpasses could help promote diversity even if roadways get fenced off, but those are expensive.
Collisions with animals also come with a price tag. The Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association said the average property damage cost of collisions involving wildlife during the second half of 2010 and first half of 2011 was more than $3,000.
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