A busy highway can be a barrier to wildlife movement. It can also be dangerous or even deadly for wildlife and drivers alike.
Thanks to a team effort in southwest Colorado, an important elk, mule deer and pronghorn antelope migration corridor is much safer.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation provided funding for the project along with the Colorado Department of Transportation, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and other partners.
The result is a $11.3 million structure that includes a wildlife overpass and underpass, two miles of 8-foot-tall exclusion fencing, wildlife escape ramps and road improvements on U.S. Highway 160 at the junction with Colorado Highway 151 between Durango and Pagosa Springs near Chimney Rock National Monument.
Prior to project completion in the summer of 2022, vehicle-wildlife collisions made up more than 60 percent of crashes at that location in the San Juan Basin area. It’s a key migration crossover pinch point because elk and deer spend the warmer months of the year in the high country to the north but migrate to vital winter range south of the highway.
This project highlights the multiple tools available to transportation and wildlife professionals to protect both motorists and migratory animals. GPS data and video surveillance showed elk using the crossing even before construction was finished. Going forward, transportation officials expect at least an 80 percent reduction in wildlife-vehicle collisions.
Since 1984 RMEF and is partners have completed more than 13,000 projects & conserved or enhanced more than 8.6 million acres of habitat.