Elk Cams Helping Elk
Elk cams, satellite-tracking collars, wildlife underpasses, escape ramps, one-way gates and wildlife-proof fencing are all part of an effort to keep elk and fast-moving vehicles from coming into contact along a newly widened section of Highway 260 east of Payson.

Major upgrades to highway sections encompassing 17 miles along State Route 260 from Payson to the Mogollon Rim are at various stages of completion. These sections of road have some of the highest incidence of elk-vehicle collisions below the Mogollon Rim. State transportation and wildlife officials are trying to reverse that trend.

The Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) is incorporating a comprehensive package of measures in the highway design, such as wildlife underpasses, to minimize the opportunity for elk-vehicle encounters.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is evaluating those designs and helping ADOT determine what works best for incorporating into highway construction below the Mogollon Rim. This could also serve as a pilot project for other areas of the state to help reduce collisions.

Norris Dodd, a biologist for the Game and Fish Department, says the primary approach is creating "wildlife permeability" across this widened section of four-lane highway. " We want to keep wildlife off the highway yet still allow them to get from one side of the road to the other. Hitting an elk at highway speeds is not only dangerous, it can be fatal," Dodd says.

Many of the designs being tried to keep elk off the highway have never been used. Part of the study involves using hi-tech methods, such as remote video cameras controlled by movement sensors and having elk fitted with satellite-tracking devices. By using such methods, biologists can determine elk movement and highway-crossing patterns in relation to specific roadway designs.

" As we learn what is or isn't working, we pass the information to ADOT for incorporation into the next section of roadway improvements. It's all part of an adaptive-management process," he says.
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