UDOT plans to build three new wildlife underpasses

Dec 6, 2023, 5:32 PM

Deer passing through one of the wildlife underpasses....

Deer passing through one of the wildlife underpasses. (Utah's Department of Transportation)

(Utah's Department of Transportation)

SALT LAKE CITY — A recent grant to Utah’s Department of Transportation has the agency thinking of new ways to improve road safety involving wildlife.

Sharing Utah’s roads with pedestrians and bicyclists can be done safely if everyone pays attention, but sharing the roads with furry commuters can be a bit challenging.

“I think we could spend the rest of our lives and careers identifying these areas where there are obstacles for animals to move freely throughout the state,” said Matt Howard, UDOT’s Natural Resource Manager.

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The nearly $5.5 million grant will hopefully help with that. More than 60 wildlife passes are already up and running, and UDOT plans to build three additional ones and extend the current fencing by over seven miles on U.S. Highway 89 near Kanab.

“This is an area that gets a lot of traffic, a lot of tourism traffic,” Howard said. “We have Zion, Bryce Canyon, Grand Staircase National Monument all surrounding this area, and for sportsman lovers, which is a premium hunting area for trophy animals.”

In the past five years, there have been nearly 75 crashes involving wildlife near U.S. 89. UDOT says they assume that almost half of wildlife crashes aren’t even reported.

“Roads still are an almost complete barrier for dear. The vast majority of animals won’t ever try to cross it– for more of them, this is just a complete barrier, and there’s great habitat on the side of the road that when we put in these crossings, they can access it and migrate like they historically did,” Howard said.

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UDOT plans to build three new wildlife underpasses