By Bonnie Altshuld, Sept. 8, 2019
Fall migration is only just beginning and already we are seeing roadkill numbers rising on Hwy 20, touted as Idaho’s “Gateway to Yellowstone” in eastern Idaho. In the beginning of August, two moose were killed on the Ashton Hill. Both were females, and one had engorged udders indicating she was likely pregnant or nursing. On the evening of August 24th, a female black bear was hit and killed on Ashton Hill. The driver of the vehicle said the bear was moving very quickly and collided with the side of their camper and was dragged on the stairway of the camper. This is absolutely heartbreaking, infuriating, and preventable.Lower speed limits and wildlife signage is not enough. We need wildlife crossings to prevent animals from running in front of traffic.
I’ve heard it said that “common sense solutions” are the way to go. By “common sense solutions” they mean lowering the speed limit. I think we must face up to the truth, that Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) will not lower speed limits, as Hwy 20 is designated a U.S. freight route. ITD is more interested in adding more lanes to this highway than they are in lowering the speed limit. With a wider highway animals are less inclined to cross the road. What will this do to wildlife’s ability to migrate to lower elevations for the winter? Without migration animals will die. When I-84 was constructed in southern Idaho 40% of the migratory Sublette mule deer herd died of malnutrition when animals were not able to get to their winter range.
In this year, 2019, according to data retrieved from the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Information System (IFWIS) from Idaho Fish and Game, 65 killed animals have been killed on our highways in Fremont County. This includes animals wolf-sized and larger. Ashton Hill and Graveyard Flats account for half of these deaths, 30 animals. These tragic deaths are the reason we must come together and work toward implementing science-based solutions to protect wildlife in our community.
In 2018 (including fall and spring migrations), at least 161 animals larger than wolves were killed on roads in Fremont County, including one wolf and one mountain lion. This carnage must end. We are the gateway to Yellowstone, and as such have a responsibility to protect tourists using our roadways and the wildlife they are coming to see.
Island Park, we MUST do better. These tragedies are far too common. Speed limits and crossing signs are NOT enough. Write you legislators, contact ITD, let them know that you care about citizen safety on our highways and our wildlife.