Wildlife efforts earn recognition | AspenTimes.com

Wildlife efforts earn recognition

Aspen Times Staff
Aspen, CO Colorado

A program in Colorado to reduce collisions between wildlife and vehicles on roads like Highway 82 received special recognition Wednesday from the Federal Highway Administration.

The Colorado Department of Transportation and the Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project won the Exemplary Ecosystem Initiatives award.

The unlikely partnership formed last year to create the “Linking Colorado’s Landscapes” project. It identified 12 highway crossings where animal mortality was particularly high, and proposed solutions to reduce collisions.

An area of Highway 82 east of Glenwood Springs is one of the top 12 problem areas; CDOT has erected escape ramps to help ease the problem. Dirt was plowed up against an existing fence to create a ramp to make it easier for deer, elk and other wildlife to clear the fence.

The ramp is only on the highway side of the fence, so wildlife caught in the right of way can flee traffic, not run into it.

Next year, CDOT will erect four miles of high wildlife fencing on both sides of Highway 82 in the Aspen Glen area to reduce the number of animals getting onto the road, according to agency spokeswoman Nancy Shanks. The fences will be between mile markers 7 and 11. Additional escape ramps might be necessary.

CDOT also is working on safe passage projects along I-70, U.S. 550 and U.S. 160 in the southwest corner of the state, and U.S. 285 and U.S. 9 near Denver.

Results of a study released last year showed that 15 people had died in Colorado since 1999 when their vehicles collided with wildlife.

The reported animal-vehicles collisions jumped to 4,074 in 2004. There were 125 animal-vehicle collisions reported on Highway 82 between Glenwood Springs and Buttermilk, near Aspen, that year, according to CDOT.