Wildlife Vehicle Crashes Are Frequent In Summit And Wasatch Counties

Jan 10, 2020

Credit Carolyn Murray

A recently completed wildlife crash study shows Summit and Wasatch Counties represent half of the top 10 hot spots in the state.

In August of 2018, the Utah Department of Transportation contracted with independent researcher Dr. Patricia Cramer who is a wildlife ecologist with expertise in transportation ecology. The scope of the study was to evaluate areas of conflict between wildlife and roadways. Her data shows the following areas are the top 5 most frequent conflicts with wildlife:

-US-40 north of Heber

-US 189 near Deer Creek State Park

-SR 224 from Kimball Junction to Park City

-SR 248 to US 40

-Interstate 80 near Jeremy Ranch.

They looked at several factors including the number of carcasses picked up off state roads, crashes with wildlife and places where animals were moving or migrating across or near roads. There were more than 2700 recorded vehicle wildlife crashes last year , but she says there are many more thousands of incidents that are never recorded.

"So, he found on average there were 5.26 more carcasses than crashes reported so for every crash reported there was at least five more dead in the general area. So that's 14,500 and then on top of that there's many more roads that UDOT doesn't administer that never get reported.”

Cramer says UDOT won’t budget for wildlife mitigation projects unless there is a planned expansion or improvement project budgeted. She says people living and traveling in those hot spot communities must become active and appeal to UDOT to include mitigation in their long-range plans.

“I would suggest that people that want to be active within the long range plan in the area of your County and then the state transportation improvement program documents which are online can see if there's any upcoming projects that you can start say, that projects going to increase considerations for wildlife.”

Save People Save Wildlife member Erin Ferguson says her group plans to engage Summit County and UDOT to address the dangerous collision areas on SR 224 and compel the agencies to budget for an overpass that would be accessible by the variety of species that migrate through that area.

“With Park City and Summit County and UDOT planning this bus transit, bus lane system in the planning process to our understanding and being budgeted for, we want to use this report and this planning process for [SR] 224 to allow wildlife mitigation components to be included in the planning process for 224 and also budgeted for.”

Cramer’s study is extensive, and the recommendations include continued accurate crash data collection, prioritizing hot spots and developing GIS mapping systems to track specific wildlife activity. Cramer hopes to see the DWR use collaring to alert drivers and agencies of wildlife herd movements.  She also urges a formal memorandum of understanding between UDOT and the Utah DWR to assure future mapping and research and cooperation at the highest levels of each agency.

Dr Cramer will join Leslie Thatcher on Wednesday morning during the Local News Hour to discuss her study in more detail.