Tribes’ insistence has created most wildlife friendly highway in Montana-

This is the crowning achievement of the reconstruction of US93 through a wildlife rich area in NW Montana. There will be 42 crossings. They are all large culverts or bridges except for this one big overpass.  Recent motion-sensing camera photos show use of the underpasses by many kinds of wildlife.

Story in the Missoulian. Wildlife to Roam Free. By Kim Briggeman.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

27 Responses to Wildlife overpass on U.S. 93 Montana latest in series of wildlife crossings

  1. avatar Save bears says:

    That’s great, if you go to the MDOT website, they have a gallery of pictures of animals that have been using it, including Bears, Deer, Elk, Mt. Lion, Bobcat as well as otters and other various species…good job!

  2. avatar Jay says:

    Something positive for wildlife in the news finally–it’s nice to read something good for a change.

  3. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    Other states need to consider this. One would be good around Jackson. I think this has been going on in Canada for quite some time now. Grizzlies are using them there.

  4. I’d really like to see this on Interstate 90 near the Idaho/Montana border. It is a tremendous barrier to wildllife.

  5. There are so many highways that need similar crossings. When I drove from Livingston to Billings in October a few years ago, I counted over forty road- killed deer on my side of the freeway.
    Governor Otter says he wants wants to improve Idaho Highways. Installing some of these crossings here in Idaho would be a good place to start.

  6. avatar Save bears says:

    I would like to see some of the supposed stimulus money used to construct these, they are not cheap, if you note, I think they said this one was 1.8 million, but if you use common sense and look at lives saved and property damage reduced in addition to less animals killed, it almost seems like a bargain…

  7. I agree Save Bears. I hoped the money would (or will; most hasn’t been spent) be for things like wildlife crossings.

  8. avatar Maska says:

    Good idea, Save Bears. Every time I have to drive home at night–as I did twice this week–on New Mexico highways, I always feel like I’m flying blind, with little chance of avoiding a crash, if an animal jumps out of the shadows and onto the road.

    Our daughter actually hit a deer early one morning on Trans Mountain road in El Paso, on her way to work. The damage to her car was considerable. The damage to the deer was fatal.

    I know Arizona is already installing some wildlife crossings, and New Mexico has also getting on board with the idea. I don’t know if they are using any stimulus money, but it seems like a win-win situation for people and wildlife.

  9. avatar Frank Renn says:

    I am impressed that the Montana Dept. Of Transportation has a wildlife biologist.

  10. avatar ProWolf in WY says:

    Larry, I think there have been motions to install wildlife overpasses in the Livingston to Billings stretch. I agree, that area is like a graveyard with deer and antelope. The stretch between Livingston and Bozeman needs them as well. I have seen lots of deer and also elk, moose, and even a mountain lion and bear dead on the road. In Wyoming I have seen areas with tall fences that look like a deer couldn’t clear. I’m not sure if antelope can get under them or not. Does anyone know if wildlife is somehow funneled in these areas of Wyoming. It seems that if there was no underpass then it would block of a lot of travel corridors.

  11. avatar HikerID says:

    What a great thing… kudos to Montana. The photos are wonderful – even one of a PAIR of mt. lions passing through!

  12. ProWolf in WY,

    I saw a story a while back about an overpass (or underpass) that had been put north of Kemmerer, WY that was preventing numerous collisions.

  13. avatar smalltownID says:

    Thanks for that post Ralph. I think this is a common sense approach. What do you think of the high fence starting at the portneuf gap? Have you been involved in this at any level? I was headed out of town and just got back when it was getting started and was unfortunately unable to give any input when they were seeking comments.

    Glad they are doing something but I think it will be a small bandage on a huge wound. Are they hoping the deer will use black rock road??? hopefully considering some migration corridor, i don’t think that is enough.

  14. avatar Ron Kearns says:

    Photos accessed from the Montana Dept. of Transportation (MDT) site @:

    http://www.mdt.mt.gov/pubinvolve/us93info/post_construct.shtml

  15. avatar jerryB says:

    I drove 93 recently…very impressive!
    I’m hoping they establish a sizeable “off limits” area around all these corridors. The concentration of wildlife in the areas of these over and underpasses would be very tempting for unethical hunters and trappers.

  16. avatar Save bears says:

    Frank,

    Despite your cynicism the FWP has several Wildlife Biologists, I know that for a fact as I was one of them, and I have several friends that currently work for the Department that hold a Masters in Wildlife Biology…I don’t understand, why, when something positive actually happens, it can just stay positive instead of the cynical remarks…?

  17. smalltownID,

    Yes, I’d like to see a tall fence at Portneuf Gap, although a worse collision zone is on the Bannock Highway where the deer come out of the junipers to forage on the LDS Stake field during the winter and spring.

    Well, I could be wrong. Maybe you live near Blackrock Road.

    I haven’t been involved in any of the effort to fence. I know someone has been working hard to refurbish the fences leading to the underpasses on U.S. 30 leading to Fish Creek Summit. I was involved in that when that highway was first built way back when.

  18. avatar Frank Renn says:

    save bears
    cynicism no no no . impressed yes yes yes That a state dept of transportation is forward thinking enough to have a wildlife biologist on there staff due all the problems wildlife has with high speed traffic. Hope this clears up any misunderstanding.

  19. avatar Save bears says:

    Frank,

    I read it wrong….sorry for that, it was my fault.

    But I will add most DOT agencies also have biologists employed now a days…If I wanted to relocate, I could go to work for WDOT right now at a very competitive wage..

    Again, sorry I misread your post..

  20. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    smalltownID, Ralph – the wildlife fence in the Portneuf Gap is a collaborative project between ITD, Southeast Idaho Mule Deer Foundation and the IDFG Mule Deer Initiative. We are also working with ITD to upgrade the Fish Creek Pass fence, as you noted Ralph. The Inkom Gap fence will run from Century High School to the Inkom I-15 Exit (about 5 miles) and we hope will be completed next year. The Department also facilitates two Local Road Mortality Work Groups in the Portneuf Valley (Pocatello to Fish Creek Pass) and Bear River Valley (Soda Springs to Montpelier). The State Highway 30 corridor from Montpelier to the Wyoming border is the worst section we have in the Southeast Region. We’re looking at alternatives with ITD there, as our highest priority. Wildlife overpasses are the cadillac solution because of their cost and because of their effectiveness. Wildlife are much less hestitant to move across overpasses, compared to underpasses (which we have for I-15 (Portneuf Gap) and Fish Creek Pass. Road mortality of deer and elk is an increasingly serious problem nation-wide.

  21. Mark. Thank you for this valuable information.

    I know what you are talking about on US 30 from Montpelier to the WY border. I like to drive it at 35 mph at night; of course, you have to worry about getting rear-ended too.

    Yet another problem stretch for deer is US 89 near Red Rock Pass south to Swan Lake.

  22. avatar smalltownID says:

    So the black rock road we are counting on as being the corridor. Is that correct Mark? Thanks for the info. If there is any volunteer help you could use for this project I could get some hands on board with the local high schools and what not. I know there are some issues there but We’ll keep in touch.

  23. JerryB
    That´s exactly what happened in Slovenia recently. Hunters queuing up at the overpasses until authorities took measures to stop this. I have no fresh information if this was successful.

  24. avatar jdubya says:

    We are working for one of these over interstate I80 between Park City and Sat Lake City that we could use for both a pedestrian/bicycle crossing as well as wildlife. Deer, elk and moose are routinely hit on this section and this highway desperately needs a viable wildlife corridor. In Utah, 10,000 deer and elk and moose are hit per year, with a mortality of about 90%. If you figure, modestly, that each strike causes $5,000 of damage to the car and/injuries to the occupants, that is $50,000,000 per year in damages. These projects can end up not only being the right thing to do, but cost effective as well.

  25. avatar Don says:

    This is a great step forward for sure! Hopefully the trend continues to grow, and this is not just a token effort. There are places here in Oregon that could use over/underpasses as well. I am seriously impressed that in a world of such greed and misunderstanding of sub-cultures/species that something like this has been implemented. I am also amazed by the animals, no doubt conditioned to dodge traffic the best they can, learn to use these so fast. Within a couple generations of the animals teaching their young, and road kills will be substantially decreased. For once a news piece puts a smile on my face…woo hoo. Good job!!

  26. avatar Elizabeth Parker says:

    States that rely heavily on tourism revenue would be well served by these overpasses. Nothing ruins a beautiful Park City ski vacation more than seeing a beautiful moose dead in the middle of the highway – an all too common sight in winter. Of course, my concern is loss of wildlife and people. My husband and I rarely drive at night in Utah because there is ample wildlife and high chances of hitting an animal. Seeing all the majestic animals killed is just horrible.

  27. avatar Mark Gamblin (IDFG) says:

    smalltownID – please contact me about volunteer help with the fence projects. Volunteers are needed and appreciated.

    mark_gamblin@idfg.idaho.gov

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