Biologists, transportation managers aim to reduce collisions with better data
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Motorists along I-70 have reported more than 400 sightings of deer, bighorn sheep and elk near the highway in the past year, helping wildlife biologists identify locations on the interstate where animals are most frequently trying to cross.
About a year ago, a coalition of groups launched I-70WildlifeWatch.org to make it easy for travelers to report wildlife sightings online, and ultimately, to reduce the number of costly and dangerous wildlife collisions.
November and December are the months with the highest rate of wildlife-vehicle collisions in Colorado. When seasonal migrations and high volume traffic coincide, as will start to happen as the ski season begins and holiday travel increases, it’s particularly important for people to keep an eye out for wildlife.
“We’re very happy with the dedication we’ve seen from the public a year into this project,” said Paige Singer, staff biologist at Center for Native Ecosystems in Denver. “Submissions of wildlife sightings have been consistent throughout our study area. We hope to see this trend continue to increase as more drivers become familiar with the website.”
This information is a key element in a comprehensive assessment of habitat connectivity along the I-70 mountain corridor. The Center for Native Ecosystems and ECO-resolutions LLC are currently completing the study in coordination with the Colorado Department of Transportation.
The website is advertised on a new billboard on I-70 near the intersection with C-470. The billboard, sponsored by Waste Management, asks drivers on I-70 to help researchers by recording animal sightings.
“The people who can make the biggest difference by using this website are the regular I-70 drivers,” said Julia Kintsch, owner and conservation ecologist at ECO-resolutions LLC. “Keeping an eye out for wildlife is fun and exciting, but reporting what you see on your drive will also help reduce animal-vehicle collisions on I-70.”
All the reported sightings have added up to more than 1,000 animals spotted along the busy interstate. Along with the elk and deer, drivers have also reported seeing black bear, coyote, red fox, raccoon, marmot, moose, American marten, porcupine, mountain lion and lynx. Researchers are encouraged that over three quarters of these sightings have been of live animals and not of roadkill.
Along with observations from drivers, there are several motion-sensor cameras set up in the I-70 corridor to help track wildlife movement. The Center for Native Ecosystems provided the following images from those cameras.
Filed under: I-70, Summit County Colorado, transportation, wildlife Tagged: | Center for Native Ecosystems, Colorado Department of Transportation, Denver, Environment, I-70, Roadkill, Summit County Colorado, Summit County News, transportation, wildlife, wildlife-vehicle collisions