State works to reduce traffic collisions with wildlife

by Suzanne Potter, Nevada News Service

Animals in the road cause an average of 500 traffic collisions a year in Nevada – which is why experts on wildlife, transportation and development are meeting for a summit today at the Governor’s Mansion in Carson City.

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Each year, those collisions kill one or two people and cost taxpayers between $19 million and $22 million. Brian Wakeling, administrator for the game division of the Nevada Department of Wildlife, said underpasses and overpasses built to allow safe wildlife crossings make a huge difference for species such as elk, mule deer, wild horses, bighorn sheep, bears and the desert tortoise.

“Those corridors are essential to the wildlife. Otherwise it can really influence their ability to survive winters or capitalize on the best nutrition so that they can have the most offspring,” Wakeling said.

Biologists fit animals with satellite tracking collars and use computer models to determine their migration patterns. Wakeling said wrecks involving animals have gone down as much as 98% in places where the diversions have been built, especially along Interstate 80 and Nevada Highway 93.

Nova Simpson, Northern Nevada biological supervisor with the Nevada Department of Transportation, said the summit will strengthen relationships between state agencies and city and county planners. She hopes that by working together, they can incorporate wildlife corridors into new developments before they are built.

“We could work with the land developers to provide some nice corridors through some of these developments if we plan ahead of time,” Simpson said. “And that would help not only the wildlife but also the community and the roadways if we can all work together.”

The state also would like local planning officials to ask home and business owners to remove things that attract wildlife, such as fruit trees, and require measures such as fences and bear-proof trash cans that discourage animals from becoming a nuisance.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Pew Charitable Trusts.


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