North Dakota works on safe wildlife crossings amid expansion
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Increased traffic due to oil activity and population growth in western North Dakota has prompted state wildlife and transportation officials to work on safe road crossings for wildlife.
A recent U.S. Highway 85 expansion near Williston included an underpass designed for moose, and two more underpasses are being sought by state transportation officials for bighorn sheep, mule deer and other animals, the Bismarck Tribune reported . The new recommendations were made to the Federal Highway Administration.
“With the widening of the road, it creates a larger barrier for the movement of animals,” said Bruce Kreft, a conservation biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. “A two-lane highway is a lot easier for the animals to cross.”
Safe wildlife crossings weren’t previously an issue in the state’s western region because traffic counts were lower, Kreft said. But that’s changed due to more oil activity and people.
The ultimate goal from the state Department of Transportation “was to provide a safe roadway for the traveling public,” he said. “From the Game and Fish standpoint, we were looking to reduce collisions on the roadway and provide habitat connectivity.”
Cameras that monitor the moose underpass completed last fall have shown the animals entering the underpass but not going through it. Kreft said it’s too soon to evaluate the effectiveness of the crossing partly because construction in the area was still creating a disturbance.
In addition to wildlife crossings, the Game and Fish Department has also worked with transportation officials to develop other wildlife accommodations, such as earthen trails under bridges that Kreft said have been highly effective.
Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com