EVALUATION OF AN UNDERPASS INSTALLED IN U.S. HIGHWAY 30 AT NUGGET CANYON, WYOMING, FOR MIGRATING MULE DEER

A 15-mi stretch of U.S. Highway 30 through Nugget Canyon between Kemmerer and Cokeville, Wyoming bisects the migration route of a subunit of the Wyoming Range mule deer herd. Consequently this highway is crossed by approximately 14,000 mule deer each fall and spring as they migrate between their winter range in Red Eye Basin and their summer range in the Wyoming Mountains. An average of 130 mule deer per year have been killed in deer-vehicle collisions since 1990. An underpass was installed in association with 8-ft-high deer-proof fence at milepost 30.5 in the summer of 2001 in an attempt to mitigate this problem. Starting in the fall of 2001 the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (WCFWRU) conducted a study to evaluate mule deer activity at the underpass and to determine the optimal size and potential locations of future underpasses to be built in Nugget. WCFWRU monitored the underpass using a video camera system activated by infrared sensors to examine deer activity at the underpass. Starting in the spring of 2002, WCFWRU initiated a series of trials in which the size of the underpass was manipulated using plywood dividers and gauged mule deer response to the underpass at different sizes. WCFWRU collected data on the number of deer entering the underpass, the number of deer repelling from the underpass, the time needed for deer to enter the underpass, and behavioral indicators of hesitancy as deer approached the underpass. Based on video footage of the 2000-2003 migrations and herd estimates provided by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, WCFWRU found that between 8.4% and 11.0% of the mule deer crossing the highway in Nugget Canyon used the underpass at milepost 30.5. In the years the underpass was monitored the peak of fall migration occurred in December and the peak of spring migration occurred in March and April. It was found that deer approaching the underpass were more likely to repel in response to smaller underpass sizes than larger. Deer were more sensitive to changes in the width of the underpass than the height. Height reductions down to 8 ft did not appear to substantially impact deer willingness to use the underpass, but reductions to 6 ft resulted in a large increase in percentage of deer repelling from the underpass. Deer crossing traffic on U.S. Highway 30 was heaviest at mileposts 35 and 36, at the east end of the deer proof fence. WCFWRU recommends that future underpasses built in Nugget Canyon be at least 20 ft wide and 8 ft tall, and have an openness ratio of at least 0.8. At least one additional underpass should be built in Nugget Canyon near mileposts 35 and 36, and the deer-proof fence extended at least 3 miles east of its current extent to prevent deer from moving around the end of the fence.

  • Corporate Authors:

    University of Wyoming, Laramie

    Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, 1000 East University Avenue
    Laramie, WY  United States  82071

    Wyoming Department of Transportation

    5300 Bishop Boulevard
    Cheyenne, WY  United States  82009-3340

    Federal Highway Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Authors:
    • Gordon, K
    • Anderson, S
  • Publication Date: 2003-6

Language

  • English

Media Info

  • Pagination: 32 p.

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00962150
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: Wyoming Department of Transportation
  • Report/Paper Numbers: FHWA-WY-03/01F,, Final Report
  • Contract Numbers: RS04(200), Job No. A12C
  • Files: TRIS, USDOT, STATEDOT
  • Created Date: Aug 21 2003 12:00AM