Harsh winter pushes wildlife to Utah roads with over 1,000 killed this year
Mar 9, 2023, 6:06 PM | Updated: 7:28 pm
SPRINGVILLE, Utah — Even with a zoom lens, it was tough to see a small herd of deer in the mountains above Springville on Thursday afternoon.
But Scott Root knew how to find them.
“You can typically see them by their rump patch,” he said while looking through his binoculars. Sure enough, in less than a couple of minutes, he saw some of them.
“There is a little group of deer right there,” he said with a smile. It’s a good thing he has a good eye.
“Some of my buddies that I hang out with, I’ll say oh there’s a deer. And they’re like, where,” said Root with a laugh.
It helps that he is a biologist with Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources.
“I love wildlife,” he said. “It’s not just my career, but it is my passion in life.”
For as much as he loves looking at and studying wildlife, Root also knows they can cause problems.
“This year especially,” he said. “We are going to have quite a few on roads, near roads, especially during those darker hours.”
Utah drivers are seeing a lot of big game animals right now. Hundreds of deer and elk are currently along U.S. Highway 6 in Spanish Fork Canyon between Spanish Fork and Soldier Summit.
Animals are coming down mountains all across Utah looking for food because of the deep snowpack in higher elevations. Often, they end up near roads that have been plowed because it is easier to get around.
“Because of the green up season when we get green vegetation and they’re right off the side of the road,” Root said.
An elk herd near the mouth of Parley’s Canyon in Salt Lake City got a lot of attention last month. Parley’s Historic Nature Park, which is normally an off-leash dog park, is now on-leash temporarily while the elk are in the area.
“We do have a lot of elk and deer down low,” Root said.
According to DWR statistics, so far this year the number of reported roadkill in the state is at 1056. That’s up from last year at 977, and the year before at 870, when less people were driving because of COVID-19.
It is important to note the way numbers are reported through DWR’s roadkill app changed this year, so an exact comparison may be off a little. However, the danger to cars is still the same.
“If you go up some of the canyons, you’ll see quite a few roadkill animals and that’s a great reminder you better be careful for your own safety, let alone the safety of the animals,” Root said. “Please be extra careful while driving. Especially at night.”