Happy New Year, pronghorn!

 

At a site called Trapper's Point about six miles west of Pinedale, Wyo., the New Fork and Green rivers sweep toward one another and then away, creating an hourglass shaped strip of land. Every spring and fall more than 3,000 pronghorn and mule deer pass through this bottleneck as they travel between winter range in the Green River Basin and summer ranges in the surrounding valleys and foothills. This includes members of the Teton pronghorn herd, who undertake the longest known land animal migration in the continental U.S. when they move 170 miles to summer in Grand Teton National Park.

A housing development blocks off part of the already narrow corridor at Trapper's Point, restricting the pronghorn to a passage just a half mile wide. Right in the middle of this pinch point, the migrating animals must cross Highway 191, the road linking Pinedale to Jackson. Vehicles kill around 100 big game animals on this highway every year.  Often, the still lump of a pronghorn carcass lies on the shoulder of the highway.

In this gauntlet of fences, highways and

houses, a new project will help protect migrating deer and pronghorn, as well as drivers who can be injured or killed in wildlife collisions. The Wyoming Department of Transportation recently announced they've allocated $9.7 million to build a series of wildlife crossing structures on Highway 191 west of Pinedale, including two overpasses (one at Trapper's Point) and six underpasses. Overpasses look like wide bridges covered with vegetation. Pronghorn can run over the top while cars drive underneath.

Vehicle collisions with wildlife decreased significantly on two other Wyoming highways after WYDOT built systems of wildlife underpasses. Cameras installed in underpasses below Highway 89 in southwest Wyoming during 2008 show thousands of deer plus other species like moose and elk walking through. But antelope rely on eyesight to keep them from danger, so they tend to avoid dark, narrow underpasses like an existing concrete opening under the highway at Trapper's Point. Here, migrating antelope follow the fence line to the underpass and peer into its shadowy opening. Thanks to newly-allocated funding, Wyoming will have its first overpasses to help pronghorn. Preventing collisions will save enough money to pay for the overpass in less than 20 years, while protecting wildlife and drivers.

More importantly, the structures blur the distinction between places set aside for wildlife versus those set aside for humans. By reconnecting fragmented habitat, we invite more robust wildlife populations to share the places we live and work in the West.

Emilene Ostlind holds an editorial fellowship at
HCN.

Photo of buck pronghorn crossing highway in Teton Park courtesy of Flickr user alh1.

High Country News Classifieds
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...
  • CAMPAIGNS DIRECTOR
    Southeast Alaska Conservation is hiring. Visit https://www.seacc.org/about/hiring for info. 907-586-6942 [email protected]
  • FINANCE & GRANTS MANAGER
    The Blackfoot Challenge, located in Ovando, MT, seeks a self-motivated, detail-oriented individual to conduct bookkeeping, financial analysis and reporting, and grant oversight and management. Competitive...
  • WADE LAKE CABINS, CAMERON MT
    A once in a lifetime opportunity to live and run a business on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in SW Montana....
  • CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, BOOKS, CULTURE AND COMMENTARY (PART-TIME, CONTRACT)
    High Country News is seeking a Contributing Editor for Books, Culture and Commentary to assign and edit inquisitive, inspiring, and thought-provoking content for HCN in...
  • STATEWIDE COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    ABOUT US Better Wyoming is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that educates, organizes, and mobilizes Wyoming residents on behalf of statewide change. Learn more at...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    TwispWorks is a 501(c)3 that promotes economic and cultural vitality in the mountainous Methow Valley, the eastern gateway to North Cascades National Park in Washington...
  • CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCATE OR DIRECTOR
    Location: Helena, Montana Type: Permanent, full time after 1-year probationary period. Reports to: Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs. Travel: Some overnight travel, both in-state...
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Restore Hetch Hetchy, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, seeks experienced development professional to identify and engage individuals and institutions who are inspired to help underwrite...
  • PUBLIC LANDS COUNSEL
    The successful candidate will be the organization's lead counsel on public lands issues, including reviewing federal administrative actions and proposed policy and helping to shape...
  • HUMAN RESOURCES DIRECTOR
    Solar Energy International (SEI) is a 501(c)3 non-profit education organization with a mission to provide industry-leading technical training and expertise in renewable energy to empower...
  • TRAINING MANAGER
    This is a full-time position based out of our Paonia office. This position is responsible for organizing all of Solar Energy International's renewable energy trainings....
  • RANCH HAND & HOUSING OPPORTUNITY IN DURANGO, CO
    Remodeled home with the opportunity to work off part of rent. Renter(s) must be available to help with lifting, irrigation & outdoor chores, 15-40 hrs...
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • 10 ACRES OF NEW MEXICO HIGH DESERT
    10 Acres of undeveloped high desert land in central NM, about 45 minutes from downtown Albuquerque. Mixed cedar and piñon pine cover. Some dirt roadways...
  • OPERATIONS DIRECTOR
    We are a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education, innovation, and collaboration....