Earlier sunset means more wildlife on highways at rush hour, CPW warns

Wildlife experts pair with transportation officials to create more safe passages

Sky-Hi News staff report
A black bear uses the underpass system on Highway 9 between Green Mountain Reservoir and Kremmling in this undated photograph.
CDOT/courtesy photo

With the end of daylight saving time, wildlife experts are asking drivers to watch out for wildlife and slow down at night.

Autumn is the peak mating and migration season for many animals, including elk and deer. With more drivers on the road after dusk, they’re encountering more of these wild animals on Colorado’s highways during rush hour traffic.

“We would like to remind everyone that, as the seasons change, deer and elk will be showing up on roadways again,” CPW Wildlife Manager Rachel Sralla said in a statement advising motorists to keep an eye out for deer and follow speed limits.

“Deer move across our minor arterial roads all the time, and the best way to protect wildlife on the roads is to keep to the speed limit and keep our eyes up,” she said.

According to CDOT Wildlife Program Manager Jeff Peterson, big game animals are making their way to lower elevations where they can more easily find food and water, and those movements can lead to more collisions between animals and vehicles.

Trying to decrease the number of collisions in Colorado, the Colorado Department of Transportation has been working with CPW to try to identify projects that would allow wildlife to safely cross busy highways.

Colorado Highway 9 Wildlife Crossing Project between Green Mountain Reservoir and Kremmling includes two wildlife overpasses, five underpasses, nine pedestrian walk-throughs, 61 wildlife escape ramps and 29 wildlife guards, all connected by wildlife fencing that’s 10.3 miles long and eight feet high.
CDOT/courtesy graphic

One successful wildlife project is the Colorado Highway 9 Wildlife Crossing Project.

It was built in 2016 on Colorado Highway 9 between Green Mountain Reservoir and Kremmling and billed as the first-of-its-kind.

According to CDOT, the crossing project has resulted in a 90 percent reduction in wildlife-vehicle collisions along the nearly 11-mile stretch of road. Prior to the project, an average of 63 wildlife carcasses were recorded along this part of the highway each winter.

Even more crossings are being built around the state. Projects recently completed or under construction include:

• Interstate 25 Gap Project south of Denver — five underpasses, high fencing and one overpass currently in design

• Colorado Highway 13 Fortification Creek Project north of Craig — one underpass, a wildlife radar-detection system and high fencing

• US Highway 160 Dry Creek east of Durango — one underpass and high fencing

• US 160 west of Pagosa Springs — one underpass, one overpass and high fencing

• US 550 south of Durango — two underpasses, several small mammal underpasses and high fencing

A bull elk crosses Trail Ridge Road at dusk in Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado Parks and Wildlife Officials warn that having fewer hours of daylight often puts more motorists in conflict with wildlife.
Eli Pace/Sky-Hi News

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

The Sky-Hi News strives to deliver powerful stories that spark emotion and focus on the place we live.

Over the past year, contributions from readers like you helped to fund some of our most important reporting, including coverage of the East Troublesome Fire.

If you value local journalism, consider making a contribution to our newsroom in support of the work we do.