Police Receive Multiple Reports And Concerns On Large Game Sightings
With winter ending, moose and other wildlife are feeling the stress of this year’s deep snow pack and food scarcity. Last week, the Park City Police blotter recorded a half dozen calls reporting wildlife concerns. They ranged from the elk herd trying to make dangerous road crossings, a baby moose lying in the middle of a Prospector neighborhood road, to an adult moose trapped in a back yard.
Scott Root is the Conservation Outreach Manager with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. He says they’ve received more calls this year likely due to the deep snow in Utah’s mountain towns.
“This is that time of year, when they’re quite stressed. They’ve been through a long winter and they just want to hang out in a lot of places and in a way, just kind of chill and have some forage. And, they’re just trying to survive. It’s kind of a tough time for some of the animals.”
Root says as warmer weather arrives, we should expect to see more game along the roadways.
“When the snow melts, they’re not just going to immediately had up the mountain. They like to feed on that green grass and as the greenness heads up the mountain, the big game animals, for the most part, will head up the mountain as well.”
Park City Police received several calls last week about the local elk herd crossing Kearns Boulevard and SR 224. The DWR regularly helps law enforcement when large game animals become a safety hazard.
“We would work with the local law enforcement of Park City if there is a safety problem because we have way too many elk in one area. We can work with other people to try to at least get them across highways. Or, maybe move a sample of them out of the area. They’re wonderful to see until you are on the road, you know traveling 60 miles an hour or so and there’s one standing in front of you in the darkness of night.”
The Utah Department of Transportation installed a wildlife bridge over I-80 last fall. UDOT and the DWR hope the overpass, in time will reduce the number of vehicle/wildlife collisions. The project was initiated by the citizens group Save People, Save Wildlife. Root says he placed a temporary camera on the bridge this week and hopes to get some images. According to Matt Howard, UDOT.
“There were some human snow shoe tracks going across the overpass. So, we recently put some signage up there on the overpass. Please, stay away. Keep your distance. Let wildlife use the area.”
UDOT Wildlife Specialist, Matt Howard says they don’t have data to determine if the bridge has mitigated vehicle/animal collisions. The bridge was installed in October last year and while they’ve not removed any carcasses from the area in six months, it’s not possible to make a valid comparison from this year to last.
“So, if I just went to last year and compared it to this one. Those two seasons were so drastically different. So, my guess is that last year was a pretty low wildlife collision year because it was such a mild winter because animals didn’t have to move down slope to get to forage. They had plenty of forage where they were up high. So, if I did a year to year comparison, it just wouldn’t be a really honest portrayal.”
UDOT will install a camera system on the bridge as soon as snow melts enough for crews to access the area.