CDOT: Wildlife zone designation decreases collisions

There are about 100 miles of speed-restricted wildlife zones along Colorado highways, mostly on the Western Slope. Wildlife collisions in these areas have decreased by about 9 percent in the two years of study, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Wildlife crossing signs, such as this one on South Broadway, are put “where they make sense to drivers,” CDOT spokesperson Nancy Shanks said. Shanks said permanent signs such as this are placed in areas where records show animals sustain three to five “hits” per mile.

Legislation sponsored in 2010 by former state Rep. Kathleen Curry and Sen. Gail Schwartz (D-Dist. 5) initiated lowered nighttime speeds and doubled fines for speeding at night in 100 miles of designated “wildlife crossing zones” from Oct. 1 through June 1.

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, between April 2010 and May 2012, a 9 percent decrease in wildlife collisions was seen within these “wildlife zones.”

According to the CDOT website, during the past 10 years there have been an average of 3,300 wildlife accidents reported statewide each year (4,016 collisions were reported in 2012).

“November is our highest ‘hit’ month, with the highest (number of) hits from dusk to dawn,” CDOT Region 5 spokesperson Nancy Shanks said. “In this state, the season really extends from September through May with spikes in November and April and May.”

The actual number of collisions, including those going unreported, likely is much higher. A 2009 story in Westword said roadkill counts by highway maintenance workers suggest there may be twice as many animals killed on the state’s roads than are reported to the Colorado State Patrol.

CDOT has responded by building miles of wildlife-blocking fencing, particularly noticeable if you’ve driven lately in the Rifle to Eagle to Vail pass stretch of Interstate 70.

Part of that work includes wildlife escape ramps every half mile or so, Shanks said.

“In one 24-mile section of Interstate 70, we’ve installed 54 escape ramps, 27 on each side,” she said. “We also have special guards for deer. The guards are like cattle guards, only wider, so the deer won’t jump them.”

Part of that stretch of I-70 is among the so-called “wildlife kill zones” identified as extremely hazardous for motorists and wildlife by the Southern Rockies Ecosystem Project.

According to CDOT data, wildlife-vehicle collisions statewide have trended downward since 2006.

“Any time we see a downward trend in wildlife-vehicle collisions, that’s certainly encouraging,” CDOT Wildlife Program Manager Jeff Peterson said in a statement. “Factors such as wildlife population trends and weather patterns certainly play a part in WVCs, but I can’t help but think that increased driver awareness, the creation of safe locations for wildlife to cross, and strategic fencing schemes all contribute to reducing” collisions.


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