Help for Migrating Deer & Elk
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is continuing efforts in the new year to decrease the number of animals killed on U.S. Highway 30.

During spring and fall migration, a steady stream of deer and elk cross the rail line and highway in Nugget Canyon, between Kemmerer and Cokeville. This migration provides an opportunity to view the wild animals, but it also creates hazards for motorists and deer alike.

Cokeville game warden Neil Hymas, who has been involved with the Nugget Canyon Project for nearly 15 years, says the problem of wildlife and vehicle collisions has existed as long as the highway has been there.

"Until recently, an average of more than 200 mule deer were killed each year in collisions with motorists," said Hymas. "Most of the game mortalities are the result of motorists, including truck drivers, not adjusting their speeds or paying attention to the flashing warning lights and signs."

Experiments using a variety of warning devices and safety measures have been tried in the canyon to reduce game mortalities. The Nugget Canyon Project is ongoing and involves students from the University of Wyoming, volunteers, and state agencies.

Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) installed an underpass for the migrating big game animals in Nugget Canyon. Monitoring of the underpass this past year has shown that mule deer used it extensively. Hymas estimated that over 2000 deer passed through the underpass as they migrated to winter range.

Green River Wildlife Management Coordinator Bill Rudd is encouraged about the way in which so many groups and agencies have pulled together to try to solve the mortality problem. He is concerned, however, about continued funding to get the project completed.

"WYDOT is very committed to this project, but it is not a cheap fix. Any additional monies that come into this project from the Game and Fish, as well as private and corporate sources, will greatly enhance our ability to protect deer crossing the highway.

"The first underpass doesn't completely solve the problem, but it is a start," said Rudd. "The idea is to construct additional underpasses with the hope that box culverts will help mule deer maintain their historical migration patterns in the Wyoming Range. Additional fencing is also needed. More funding will be needed to complete these much-needed improvements. "

Rudd says G&F has been fortunate to receive outside funding for the Nugget Canyon Project during the G&F's ongoing budget crisis.

"In 1997, the Kemmerer-based Overthrust Wildlife Association donated their last $7,500 to the Project," he said. "At the same time, WYDOT contributed $22,000 to construct the highway pullouts. In 2001, WYDOT provided almost $400,000 to design and install the underpass. This required a contribution of over $40,000 from the G&F."

The G&F is also thankful to the hunters and anglers that purchase licenses.

"There is no doubt that we will use additional hunter and angler dollars to assist with the future funding for the Nugget Canyon Project. The project is worthwhile and is working, thanks to all of the user groups, organizations, and state agencies."

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