Idaho and WMI Cooperate to Reduce Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions and Improve Wildlife Connectivity

Idaho and WMI Cooperate to Reduce Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions and Improve Wildlife Connectivity

WMI has hired a Wildlife Biologist/Transportation Specialist to work with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDF&G) and the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD). Over the next three years, Renee Seidler will work from the IDF&G Idaho Falls regional office to incorporate wildlife crossing and connectivity information into environmental assessments; develop data and information on wildlife roadkill, connectivity, and crossings; and recommend best management practices for transportation projects in Idaho. In particular, Renee will be focused on reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVC) and facilitating wildlife movement across US 20 north of Ashton, ID, a major gateway route to Yellowstone National Park.

Game Crossing Sign on Highway 20 in Idaho

US 20 is a busy, two-lane highway, connecting numerous communities in southeast Idaho and is popular among recreational travelers. The highway provides access to Harriman and Henry’s Lake State Parks, the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Average traffic volume exceeded 4,000 vehicles per day in 2016. For these reasons, ITD is focused on making improvements to US 20, including providing for wildlife connectivity and public safety related to WVCs.

In wildlife terms, this highway bisects important habitat for multiple species. Each year over one hundred large animals, including moose, elk, deer, and bears, are struck by vehicles posing a significant danger to drivers and passengers. Grizzly bears are increasingly common in this area and providing connectivity across the US 20 corridor is important to eventually link the Greater Yellowstone grizzly sub-population with other bears to the north and west to support delisting of the Yellowstone population. In addition, this area is frequented by wolverine, a species – like grizzlies – that travels widely and relies on large tracts of protected habitat connected by corridors to link disparate populations.

An interagency agreement between IDF&G and ITD provides funding to support increased protection for wildlife in transportation projects. Hiring a wildlife biologist specializing in wildlife movements and transportation issues is part of a multi-year effort to increase motorist safety by reducing WVCs between Ashton, ID and the Idaho-Montana border. WMI hired Renee Seidler to fill this position in part because of her past work with the Wildlife Conservation Society on animal movement studies and road-related ecology of moose and elk in this area and similar work on pronghorn in Wyoming. She will provide technical and site-specific consultation to ITD staff and contractors to develop and implement connectivity priorities, mitigation, and improvement projects on US 20. She will assist in the development of monitoring and research to help determine the impacts of roads on wildlife and the effectiveness of mitigation of these impacts. She will also provide technical assistance related to transportation issues statewide.

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Photo Credit
Doug Kerr, Flickr
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April 17, 2017