|Vehicle-wildlife collisions are on the rise in Oregon. With deer and elk frequently on the move due to breeding season and migration to winter ranges in the fall and back to summer feeding grounds in spring, more wildlife are crossing roads all over the state.
ODOT, the Oregon State Police, and Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife urge motorists to be on alert and be ready to slow down. Signs placed in particularly popular areas for wildlife crossing are one tool to help drivers avoid collisions. Being especially watchful around sunrise and sunset is another tip that can help reduce vehicle-wildlife incidents.
According to statistics from ODOT's Crash Analysis & Reporting Section, there are about 1,250 wildlife-involved traffic collisions each year in the state. In 2014, there were 1,243 reported crashes involving wildlife, resulting in two people being killed. In 2013, there were 1,274 such crashes with three fatalities, and in 2012, 1,283 crashes with three fatalities.
Officials believe the numbers are actually higher because most collisions involving wildlife result in property damage only to the involved vehicle and do not get reported to police or DMV. For example, the central Oregon dispatch center received another 2,591 calls. Combined with ODOT’s other dispatch centers, in 2014, there were 6,629 calls reporting wildlife incidents/animals near roads – compared to the 1,243 that were reported as crashes. In 2013, the number of calls statewide was 5,842. Klamath, Lane and Jackson counties had the highest number of reported vehicle-wildlife crashes in 2014 (112, 89 and 82 respectively), followed by Clackamas County with 71 and Deschutes with 70. The statistics prove that crashes can and do occur everywhere in the state – rural and urban settings. See county breakdown for details (PDF).
Wildlife Crossings by OPB
US 97: Lava Butte to South Century Drive Wildlife Undercrossings
In 2012, ODOT completed a highway improvement project that widened the existing highway from milepost 149 to 153 to two lanes in each direction separated by a median and installed structures that increased the ability of wildlife to more safely cross from one side of the highway to the other. This project incorporated a variety of wildlife features due to the high risk of serious injuries from deer-vehicle collisions and the barrier to animal passage created by the busy highway.
One set of the crossing structures, the Crawford Road Bridges are located near the Lava Lands Visitor Center, at MP 149.6, and the other set of crossing structures the South Lava Butte Bridges are at MP 152. Additional measures installed to encourage wildlife use of the structures and deter them from accessing the busy highway include:
- Rocks, logs, and native plantings under the crossings to encourage small animal use
- Four miles of wildlife exclusionary fencing (8 feet high) on both sides of the highway
- Four wildlife escape ramps
- Six ElectroBraid TM mats to prevent wildlife from entering the road right of way at intersections
The main goal of this monitoring project was to evaluate the effectiveness of these structures and other measures for wildlife.
Lava Butte Wildlife Crossing Monitoring Project
2015 Lava Butte Wildlife Crossing Progress Report
Vehicle/Wildlife Collisions in Central Oregon
US 97 is a key migration corridor of mule deer in Central Oregon (see image above) and is also a critical part of the State’s transportation system and is a major north-south corridor between California and Washington.
The problem of deer-vehicle collisions on US 97 has long been recognized as a public safety issue. Mule deer herds typically move across the highway to winter east of US 97 and move west toward their summer range in the spring. Although not as commonly struck during road crossings, the highway also bisects important elk habitat.
To address this problem, ODOT has built and plan to build additional wildlife crossings to improve highway safety and habitat connectivity. These projects will help address high incidents of deer-vehicle collisions on US 97, an ODOT statewide high priority wildlife collision hot spot, a statewide high priority wildlife linkage zone, and a known mule deer migration corridor.
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Wildlife Crossing - What to Watch For
- Watch of the rest of the gang - If you've seen one, you haven't seen them all. Watch for more deer.
- Timing is everything - Deer are most active at dusk and dawn and during spring and fall.
- Wear your seatbelt - It may not prevent a collision, but wearing one can reduce injuries.
- Take moment to reflect - Look for road signs. And... deer in your headlights.
- Stay on course - Don't swerve. Brake firmly and calmly, and stay in your lane.
- HONK! - One long blast can scare deer out of the road.
- Contact authorities - If you collide with a deer, you may be legally required to report it.
US 97: Milepost 190 Wildlife Crossing
ODOT conducted a study in partnership with ODFW to construct additional wildlife crossing on the US 97 corridor. After analyzing the options of an undercrossing and overcrossing, the team recommended constructing the overcrossing at the 189.8 mile maker. Biologists felt either option would work for wildlife, assuming a bridge was selected as the preferred structure for the undercrossing. Even though the cost of building each structure (between $1.5-2 million) was about the same, the additional roadwork (detour) needed to construct the bridge would make the overall cost higher. The impact on traffic would be less constructing the overcrossing. Read more
Although conceptual design is complete, this project is on hold until funding can be identified.