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.

1 comment:

  1. My family and I were visiting the Grand Canyon July 10, 2010 and hit an elk on Rte. 64/180 leading to Rte. 40. Coming from Ohio, we weren't aware of the magnitude of elk concerns, especially with crossings, etc... The speed limit was 65 mph and if not for our seat belts, we would all 4 be dead. The bull was 8 pt. (16 pt. total) and probably around 1000 pounds said the Arizona officer of Public Safety. What I think would be helpful for out-of-towners (especially people from all over the world visiting the Grand Canyon), are suggested speed limits at night, more urgent signs, and even annual statistics of collisions posted on these routes. I know we would have slowed down and possibly avoided the crash if we had been going slower. What may seem obvious to locals (to drive slow) isn't to people who live in areas where occasionally I spot a 100 pound deer. The elk we hit was definitely no where near this category. It was crossing the road at a full speed run at 9 pm at night. Could there be fencing/stone walls with under passages for these enormous animals? Something has to be done...