Mule deer in Idaho were recently seen safely traversing the state’s first wildlife overpass.
The stretch of road on Highway 21 where the overpass was built was previously deadly for wildlife and people due to frequent collisions on the busy road, according to Boise State Public Radio. The recently-completed new overpass, called the SH-21 Cervidae Peak wildlife overpass, bridges the highway between Lucky Peak and Idaho City.
The project uses fencing to stop deer from crossing unprotected parts of the highway and funnels them toward the overpass, according to OPB. Snowy hoof prints show that the fencing is working to guide the deer to the safe crossing zone.
The success of the project is encouraging, as is the news that more wildlife crossing projects are coming to Idaho.
The herd using the new overpass is one of Idaho’s largest mule deer herds, according to Idaho Fish and Game.
“We have a migrating herd of deer and elk that winter back and forth between their winter range and their summer range, and they have to cross State Highway 21,” Scott Rudel, Idaho Transportation Department environmental planner, told Idaho Press.
The SH-21 overpass project is projected to decrease vehicle collisions with larger animals like deer by 80%, according to the state.
In addition to the threat of moving vehicles, highways also pose the less obvious threat of contributing to habitat fragmentation — breaking up a habitat into smaller, unconnected pieces — which can cause endangered animals to feel unsafe traveling to the places they need to travel to find food, mate, or rest.
These projects also help wildlife populations stay diverse — which is good for the future of endangered or threatened animals.
Lady Freethinker applauds Idaho officials for constructing wildlife-friendly crossings and is hopeful that the success of this project will inspire other states to prioritize such solutions to save the lives of animals and people.