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Roadkill concerns DOW, too

Jeremy Heiman

A midvalley woman’s quest to reduce wildlife deaths on local roads has found a sympathetic ear with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

But there’s only so much the DOW can do, said Kevin Wright, district wildlife manager for the Aspen district.

Appalled by the number of deer killed on Highway 82, Missouri Heights resident Andi Johnson has begun a private campaign to create greater public awareness of the situation. One of the first public officials Johnson contacted was the DOW’s Wright.

“People need to slow down on that highway, and they’re just not doing it,” Wright told The Aspen Times Monday. “With the [human] population increasing in the valley, it’s getting harder and harder on the animals.”

The division is concerned, Wright said, but it’s not well funded, and its priority is to preserve the health of wildlife populations, rather than individual animals.

One measure the DOW can pursue is to provide public service announcements for airing on local radio stations, Wright said. Though no state funding exists, Johnson has suggested that the DOW accept donations to fund the spots.

“We can do things like that, and we’d be happy to do so,” Wright said. He said the purpose of donations must be specified.

Ralph Trapani, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s chief engineer for Highway 82 projects, said Johnson had also contacted him about the roadkill situation. Trapani said CDOT’s priority must be human safety, not animal safety, but there are things he can do to help prevent collisions with deer as well.

CDOT airs announcements called construction advisories, he said, and will add cautionary information to those spots, especially during wildlife migration seasons in spring and fall.

CDOT places road signs warning of deer crossings at points along Highway 82 recommended by DOW personnel, Wright said. But research has shown that people only slow down one to two miles per hour when they see deer-crossing signs, he said. And other solutions are not very successful.

Underpasses for animals are very expensive, Wright said. And eight-foot fencing may cause as many problems as it eliminates. Deer fences block migration routes and daily travel patterns the animals have used historically.

“Eight-foot fencing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” Wright said.

Whistling devices placed on car bumpers don’t seem to work, either, he said.

“I haven’t seen anything that shows they’re really effective,” Wright said.

The number of deer killed on Highway 82 in an average winter doesn’t have a huge impact on overall local populations of deer, Wright said. Still, roadkill numbers are of concern. After this year’s mild winter, the number of carcasses along the road actually increased after the snow receded in spring.

The deer, which spent the winter eating bitterbrush and sage in the brush country, were drawn down to the valley by the greening of pastures and brush in the river valley, Wright said.


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