Wyoming Awarded Federal Funds to Build Wildlife Crossing Along Major Route

U.S. Highway 189 sees estimated annual average of 80 wildlife-vehicle collisions

Wyoming has won a $24.3 million federal grant to build a wildlife crossing along the U.S. Highway 189 between Evanston and Kemmerer. (Courtesy photo from Wyoming Game and Fish Department)

By Shen Wu Tan

Special to the Wyoming Truth

Wyoming officials plan to construct another wildlife crossing, providing a safe passage for animals amid the bustling traffic of a major roadway.

The state earlier this month secured a $24.3 million federal grant for an overpass, five underpasses and fencing for a wildlife crossing along a 30-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 189 between Evanston and Kemmerer.

“This project will significantly improve wildlife habitat connectivity and traveler safety, for locals and tourists alike, while saving both human and animal lives,” said Kacey Brown, senior policy analyst for the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) and grant writer for the project. “Further, this project represents a capstone accomplishment in the area as it builds on other efforts aimed at wildlife-vehicle collision reductions and enhanced wildlife habitat connectivity.”

Each year, an estimated average of 80 cars crash into deer along U.S. Highway 189, but officials say this number is likely higher due to unreported incidents. There were roughly 2,300 wildlife-vehicle crashes statewide reported in 2022, WYDOT records reveal.

Above is a graphic showing a construction plan for the Kemmerer Highway 189 Wildlife Crossing Project. (Courtesy photo from Wyoming Game and Fish Department) 

Officials expect the new wildlife crossing to reduce animal-vehicle collisions by 80% to 90% once completed. The Kemmerer project will add to existing wildlife crossing improvements in the area, such as Trappers’ Point and Dry Piney Creek crossings, per Jordan Young, WYDOT spokesperson.

The overpass structure will help pronghorn herds that will not use underpasses move safely, although deer and other animals will utilize it as well, he noted. Meanwhile, the underpasses will accommodate mule deer and other large ungulates and animals. The fencing will help direct wildlife to the crossings.

“Every instance of wildlife using the crossings is an animal not hit by a vehicle,” Young told the Wyoming Truth.

He added officials will start receiving bids in spring 2025 while construction on the Kemmerer project could start in late 2025 or early 2026. It is anticipated to take two to three construction seasons, which typically range from early spring to late fall, to finish the project.

The project is estimated to cost a total of around $37.4 million.

For the five large wildlife crossing projects in Wyoming —Baggs, Trappers’ Point, Dry Piney, Jackson South and Nugget Canyon — there are 32 crossing structures with game fencing.

“These wildlife crossing projects will help big game to move freely, access additional food and help relieve stressors on both big game animals and drivers,” said Wyoming Game and Fish Department Deputy Director Angi Bruce. “With local traffic expected to increase in the Kemmerer area with the construction of the TerraPower nuclear plant, the implementation of these structures is well-timed to reduce collisions and promote wildlife and motorist safety.”

Other transportation projects underway include a wildlife fencing project along I-25 between Buffalo and Kaycee and a WYO 23 and 390 bridge replacement job in Teton County.

At a 2017 summit, roads and wildlife stakeholders pinpointed 240 locations across Wyoming where animal-car collisions need to be reduced.  In 2018, Wyoming lawmakers approved a specialized conservation license plate in which proceeds help finance wildlife crossing projects. Almost 3,000 license plates have been sold to date.

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