Highway Project Designed to Minimize Vehicle-Wildlife Accidents

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In an effort to save the lives of both people and animals, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is working on several projects to help design highways that are more wildlife-friendly and less likely to be the scenes of car and truck accidents involving wildlife.

One project the conference focused on is the creation of a series of elk crossings on State Route 260 while the road is being upgraded just below the Mogollon Rim. This project was recently recognized by the Federal Highway Administration as one of three "exemplary ecological initiatives" nationwide for 2003. As part of the project, Arizona Game and Fish Department researchers are capturing elk and fitting them with satellite transmitters so the animals can be tracked and their movement patterns learned.

"An elk can weigh 600 or more pounds, so a collision with an elk can cause major car damage, as well as injury or death to the people inside a car," says Norris Dodd, a research biologist with the department. "The results of our study will help us gain a better understanding of wildlife crossings and lead to safer highways in the future."

The department is also working on a project on the cutting edge of road planning. Department researchers are conducting a study along U.S. Highway 93 near Hoover Dam in which radio collars are being used to track the movements of desert bighorn sheep.

The data will be used to determine where the sheep travel and, in particular, which highway crossing areas they use. The Arizona Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, and Bureau of Reclamation will then use the information to help them make up the plans for road upgrades along U.S. Highway 93.