Aspen-area wildlife fences have reduced but not ended collisions on Highway 82 | PostIndependent.com

Aspen-area wildlife fences have reduced but not ended collisions on Highway 82

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
A coyote hangs out in the grass on Owl Creek Road on Oct. 18 in Snowmass. This is the time of year when collisions with wildlife spikes on local roads.
Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times

DEADLY GAME

Wildlife fencing was added to the first stretch of Highway 82 during the winter of 2009-10 and has been extended throughout the valley. The pre-fence and post-fence numbers are drastically different.

In 2009, there were 246 wild animals of all species killed on Highway 82 between Glenwood Springs and Aspen.

In 2014, the number dropped to 76.

In 2017, it was at 104, according to CDOT roadkill figures.

Wildlife fencing erected along Highway 82 through most of the Roaring Fork Valley in 2010 has reduced vehicle-animal collisions, but state officials are warning motorists they still must be careful now that days are getting shorter and winter weather is forcing game to lower elevations.

Daylight Savings Time ends Sunday morning at 2 a.m. (so set your clocks back one hour). That means evening commutes will now be in the dark. And that means more danger of conflicts between vehicles and animals on the move, especially deer.

“People should drive at slower speeds,” said Perry Will, area 8 wildlife manager for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Just because we have fencing doesn’t mean there won’t be wildlife on the roads.”

CPW and the Colorado Department of Transportation launched their Wildlife on the Move campaign this week to build awareness among motorists during darker commute times.

The campaign urges people to slow down because that can improve a driver’s reaction time. They should stay alert, particularly while driving between dusk and dawn. Scan ahead and if one animal is seen because it’s a good bet others are around.

When wildlife is spotted drivers should slow down, if possible, and honk or flash their lights. That can scare away the animals and alert other drivers of their presence.

The number of animals killed annually on Highway 82 has decreased since the winter of 2009-10, when CDOT erected the first stretch eight-foot high wildlife fencing along the road. The fencing is now common throughout the corridor, on both sides of the highway.

CDOT’s roadkill data shows that in 2009, prior to the fencing, there were 73 wild animals of all types killed between mile marker 1 and 10 (closest to Glenwood Springs); 123 animals killed between mile marker 10 and 20; 27 killed between mile marker 20 and 30; and 23 killed between mile marker 30 and 40 (closest to Aspen). That’s a total of 246 animals.

In 2014, the number of roadkill dropped to 76. Last year it crept back up to 104 animals killed. Nevertheless, that is a reduction of 58 percent from the pre-fence era.

“The fencing has made a big difference,” Will said. “It’s really, really reduced roadkill of elk.”

There is no distinctive pattern to where animals are getting hit on Highway 82. In 2014, the highest mortality was between mile markers 20 and 30. In 2017, the deadliest stretch was between mile markers 30 and 40.

CDOT’s data shows that November and December were the second and third deadliest months, respectively, in 2017 for wildlife in region 3, which includes Highway 82. March was the top month for collisions.

The wildlife fencing includes ramps, so if deer and elk find their way onto the highway and shoulders, they have a chance of finding a ramp and jumping to safety. CPW would like to see underpasses and overpasses incorporated into projects as well.

CDOT has a wildlife program web page at www.codot.gov/programs/environmental/wildlife.