The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Dept. of Transportation are reminding people that late fall is prime time for animal-vehicle collisions around the state. In Summit County alone, vehicles have collided with at least six moose this year, including a young bull moose killed near I-70.
Wildlife mitigation efforts on I-70, however, have increased in recent years. CDOT and the Federal Highway Administration, collaborating with Rocky Mountain Wild, ECO-resolutions LLC and other partners, recently completed the I-70 Eco-Logical Project, a comprehensive analysis of wildlife mitigation for the I-70 Mountain Corridor from Golden to Glenwood Springs. Researchers on the project have developed recommendations on the best places to install new crossing opportunities for wildlife, as well as several locations where existing bridges and culverts may be modified to function for wildlife passage.
“Across the country, departments of transportation are recognizing that transportation planning cannot operate in a vacuum and must incorporate the total landscape context, including historical, community and environmental values, and, specifically, wildlife corridors,” said Julia Kintsch, owner and conservation ecologist with ECO-resolutions. “This project lays the groundwork not just for protecting remaining habitat but also actually improving safe passages across I-70 so that wildlife can freely move to access seasonal ranges or disperse to new areas.”
CDOT recently completed a project that installed nearly 100,000 lin ft of wildlife fencing along a 33-mile stretch of I-70, from Gypsum to Dowd Junction at S.H. 24. The project consisted of removing existing state right-of-way fence where necessary, installing new wildlife fence along I-70 and wildlife signs along U.S. 6.
Crews also constructed median crossovers on I-70 east of U.S. 24, which involved removing 12 ft of concrete safety barrier in two separate sections and installing guardrail in these areas to allow animals both large and small to cross the interstate. Finally, a total of 58 wildlife escape ramps were constructed—four of which were funded by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. These one-way earthen ramps are constructed six ft high, where a notch in the eight-ft high fence has been cut, allowing animals to escape the highway right-of-way and jump back to safety on the other side.
“CDOT remains committed to the safety of wildlife and travelers on the I-70 Mountain Corridor, and all of our corridor projects address this issue,” said Jim Bemelen, CDOT’s I-70 Mountain Corridor manager. “In addition to the I-70 Eco-Logical Project, there is also a memorandum of agreement between CDOT, FHWA and other agencies that documents a process to identify, design and manage landscape elements in the corridor to enhance wildlife crossings of I-70.”
In addition, wildlife observations recorded online by the driving public at www.I-70wildlifewatch.org have helped in identifying important wildlife crossings. Between fall 2009 and spring 2011, more than 1,300 animal observations were recorded along the I-70 Mountain Corridor using this website.
“The sightings reported by motorists in the I-70 Mountain Corridor have greatly expanded our knowledge of where animals—especially live animals—are most frequently seen along the roadway, information that cannot be determined with just road-kill counts and accident reports,” said Paige Singer, conservation biologist with Rocky Mountain Wild. “Overall, I-70 Wildlife Watch has proven to be a powerful data collection tool for the I-70 Mountain Corridor, and we continue to encourage the driving public to log on.”