Wildlife Bridge Exceptional Success

Jun 24, 2019

Credit Carolyn Murray

Video of a variety of animals using the wildlife bridge on I-80 at Parley’s Summit is getting lots of attention on social media. Most officials from UDOT and the DWR thought it would take several years for wildlife to adapt to using the bridge to migrate through that portion of the Wasatch Mountains. The organization Save people, Save Wildlife petitioned UDOT to build the bridge due to the frequent auto wildlife collisions occurring on that section of I-80.

When the group Save People Save Wildlife approached the Utah Department of Transportation, they had a compelling argument for building a wildlife bridge across I-80.  Through the years, KPCW has reported on vehicle collisions with large game trying to migrate across I-80. There have been collisions with bears, mountain lions, moose, elk and deer on the stretch of I-80 near the top of Parley’s Summit.

The bridge has been functional since the fall of 2018 and Conservation Outreach Manager with the Department of Wildlife Resources, Scott Root is pleased with what they’re finding.

“The biggest surprise is some of the smaller critters and some of the less expected critters like the mountain lion, the bob cat, racoons, yellow bellied marmot and other species, I’m sure are using it. And, I’m going to keep my cameras up there until UDOT says okay we’ve got our cameras up and running and your work is done.”

Root says his trail cameras record action night and day and are motion sensitive.  UDOT has plans to install its own cameras as soon as they work out some technical glitches. In the meantime, the video is collected by Root. The downside is that he must go onto the bridge to get the video data.

“Yeah, I’m one of the few people that have to kind of cheat and go up there when others are not allowed to. It sounds kind of hypocritical but it’s all in the interest of science and letting people know and let agencies know how it’s working. And that’s why I’m kind of anxious to take them down so even I don’t’ have to go up there.Root says there has been human interference with people trespassing in the area and this will ultimately hinder wildlife using the bridge. He has video of people on the bridge but so far has decided to preserve their privacy.

“Yea, I think they’ll have a pretty good idea with their camera system just how much trespass is going on. I’m not law enforcement so I can’t speak on what will happen and what won’t. But, if there are enough violations up there, I am sure something will have to be done.”

Root says they’re planning to put more signs in the area hoping the information on the signs will educate people to stay clear of the bridge and the fencing that guides the animals in that direction.

“I’ve chose not to show people. I want to respect their privacy, but we’ve even had people up there building ski jumps, believe it or not.  Skiing up there on the south slope of the overpass. We’ve had several mountain bikers which you really have to make an effort to get to that overpass with your bikes or your skis.  Of course, we’ve had hikers and runners and that type of thing.”

Root says people have criticized the landscaping design of the bridge. But he says the layout seems conducive to wildlife following the fence line and using the crossing despite the noise coming from the highway.

“We’ve had outstanding response on our social media when I posted that video.  Normally, we’ll get a lot of negative comments, but everybody, you know, even hunters, non-hunters, it doesn’t matter who you are, everybody’s pretty excited about not only the wildlife being able to safely cross over I-80 but we’re saving human lives as well.”

The video:  

 footage of mountain lions, bob cats and other animals can be found on KPCW’s facebook page and on the KPCW.org website.