Published in the Standard Journal, August 25, 2019
ASHTON – A vehicle pulling a camper hit and killed a female black bear on Highway 20 at mile post 368 around 7 p.m. on Saturday, reported the Henry’s Fork Wildlife Alliance.
“These tragedies are far too common. Speed limits and crossing signs are not enough,” the Alliance said.
According to the organization, the driver swerved to miss the bear.
“The bear was moving very quickly and collided with the side of the camper. The bear hit the trailer and was dragged. There was fur caught on the stairs leading up to the camper. The bear was dead very quickly, if not immediately after it was hit,” the alliance told the Standard Journal.
The organization reported that one of its officials followed not far from where the accident happened. The official spoke with the driver who was visiting Yellowstone National Park with his family from out of state. No one in the truck was injured, and the family expressed sorrow that the bear had been killed. The driver wasn’t at fault, reported the organization.
A Fremont County Sheriff’s Deputy arrived shortly after the accident. The bear’s carcass was retrieved, but it wasn’t known by whom, said the alliance.
The organization reported that it was relieved that the carcass didn’t go to waste, but said the best scenario would have been to have prevented the bear’s death in the first place.
The alliance believes the accident could have been avoided had there been some type of a wildlife crossing placed on the Highway.
“This is absolutely heartbreaking, infuriating and preventable with the proper wildlife crossings and associated fencing,” it stated.
Some type of a crossing, whether it’s an overpass or an underpass, needs to be in place to prevent such accidents from happening in the future, the organization said.
“They have been shown to be effective with associated fencing. It’s to help wildlife successfully cross. It’s not only a benefit to wildlife themselves but would be a benefit to humans. The economic impact associated with these collisions is very great,” it said.
The alliance also noted that in the area where the bear was killed is a “hot spot for road kill.”
The idea of a wildlife overpass proved extremely unpopular among Fremont County residents last year. In an advisory vote – that carried no legal clout – residents voted overwhelmingly against the crossings. The Idaho Transportation Department had proposed putting in such, but following the vote and the ongoing public opposition for the crossing, ITD opted against doing so.
Over the weekend, Facebook lit up with comments about the bear being killed on highway. Postings ranged from “It makes me angry that people don’t slow down” to “Would a couple of wildlife overpasses really ruin the lives of our locals? US-20 is getting so busy and scary.”
One Facebook poster suggested the following:
“I have a great idea, let’s put an Express tunnel entrance at Ashton Hill, with strategic exits at island Park, Mack’s Inn, etc., that ends on the far side of the park. Speed limit of 80 mph, and crossing Gates/Sonic repellent to keep wildlife out of the tunnels. Then take the rest of the 20 that is then bypassed, and make it 20 mph, so you can just go slow, enjoy the drive, and not risk animals,” he stated
Others stated that overpasses wouldn’t help prevent wild animal deaths. One respondent stated that the bear was just feeling blue.
“This bear was clearly depressed and suicidal she probably just got dumped by her boyfriend and couldn’t deal with her difficult bear life,” he said.
Last week, ITD announced plans to lower the speed limit from 45 to 35 as it runs past Ashton. Such was a result of last months’ three-car accident at the Highway 20/Highway 47 intersection that sent several people to the hospital.
Where the bear was killed, the speed limit is normally 65, but with construction going on from Chester to the Ashton Hill, the speed limit has been reduced in places. It wasn’t known how fast the driver was going when he hit the bear.
The alliance notes that there are no homes or subdivisions where the bear was killed.
“We have recommended to ITD in comments on their seven-year transportation plan, that they consider measures to keep wildlife off the road in this area when they upgrade the highway,” posted the alliance on its Facebook page.
The alliance added that an Idaho Fish and Game report stating that in 2018 around 161 animals – the majority being mule deer and elk – had been killed on Fremont County roads. It didn’t specify the number of animals killed where the bear was hit.
“Cars are an incredibly large threat to these species,” the organization stated.
For more information on the alliance visit https://henrysforkwildlifealliance.org/