Keeping Elk off the Road- Wildlife Crossings Coming to I-40 Soon
In Arizona, hundreds of elk are hit by cars every year. Locals are well aware of the situation--they see the carnage on the sides of the roads every day. Now a stretch of I-40 near Flagstaff is about to get safer. AGFD has joined forces with the ADOT, FHWA, US Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the Arizona Elk Society to build wildlife crossings along the road, allowing elk to safely pass underneath. The crossings will reduce collisions between elk and vehicles and provide connectivity for elk, along with other wildlife, between wildlands on either side of the interstate.
According to research by USGS biologists, I-40 serves as a barrier more formidable than the Grand Canyon to certain wildlife species, including mountain lions.
Even if you're not concerned about things like habitat connectivity, you should be concerned about wildlife-vehicle collisions. The resulting accidents are not only deadly to animals, but costly for drivers and tax payers alike. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that the average cost of an individual elk-vehicle accident to society is $18,561 --the number includes a monetary value estimate of $3,000 per elk. I have no idea how they came up with that, but even if you don't buy it, the remaining 15K per accident adds up.
Arizona Game and Fish biologists are getting high tech, just as they have for similar projects on I-17 and SR 260. They're capturing and fitting elk with GPS collars to determine exactly where crossings are needed the most. Then ADOT will incorporate the crossings into plans for improvements to the interstate. This a great combination of technology and biology that will benefit elk, people, and other wildlife that will use the crossings.