New Web site launched to track wildlife along Interstate 70 | SkyHiNews.com

New Web site launched to track wildlife along Interstate 70

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

DENVER – Wildlife groups and state officials are teaming up to prevent collisions as wild animals cross Interstate 70 between Golden and Glenwood Springs.

The Center for Native Ecosystems and Eco-Resolutions have started a Web site where motorists can report sightings of elk, deer, bighorn sheep, lynx and other animals along the highway. State transportation officials said they will relay more wildlife warnings on electronic signs. Hundreds of animals are hit each year on I-70 west of Golden.

“We see traffic continuing to increase. We see development continuing to increase. We need to make sure we work proactively,” Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said

The Web site – http://www.I-70WildlifeWatch.org – also will be used to collect information for such measures as eventually building wildlife overpasses and underpasses.

Wildlife advocates are also proposing corridors where special precautions would be taken, such as lower nighttime speed limits and higher fines for violations. Frosty Merriott, a Carbondale town trustee and Sierra Club member, said he will meet Friday with Rep. Kathleen Curry, D-Gunnison, about proposing a bill.

Merriott advocates additional protections within identified wildlife migration corridors where vehicle-wildlife collisions are high, including portions of Highway 82 between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

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State officials say collisions with wildlife rank third among causes of crashes, behind excessive speed and inattentive driving. Data show the number of collisions statewide increased from about 1,900 in 2000 to 3,750 in 2005, the last year for which data were available.

Animal fatalities include at least 14 of the endangered lynx that state biologists have been releasing in the state since 1999 to restore the long-haired mountain cat to Colorado.

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