Roadkill plagues Highway 82 |

Roadkill plagues Highway 82

Charles Agar

Police report almost daily incidents of motorists hitting deer and elk along Highway 82 and urge motorists to slow down and stay aware in the early morning and evening.”We’re getting a slew of deer hit every morning,” said Jeff Lumsden, patrol director for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. A herd of elk regularly cross Highway 82 near mile-marker 35 and motorists regularly strike deer near the old Emma School between mile-marker 21 and 24, Lumsden said, usually between 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.”The animals are just popping out on the road,” he said, and warned motorists to drive slower and stay aware when driving anywhere along Highway 82 in the morning and evening. “[Highway 82] is probably one of the most dangerous corridors for wildlife collisions in the state of Colorado,” said Randy Hampton, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife.”This is the time of year that we frequently see an increase in vehicle-animal collisions,” Hampton said. Cold weather and snow drives deer and elk herds from higher altitude to more populated areas along river valleys. “And that’s where all our roads are.”Hunting season and human movement in the back country also prompts some animal migration, Hampton said, but the herds are mostly in search of warmer temperatures and access to edible grasses.With the recent time change and shorter days the herds are active during the busy 5 to 6 p.m. in the heart of evening rush hour, Hampton said, and early morning is another dangerous time.CDOT officials are putting up deer fencing along the busiest wildlife corridors of Highway 82, but Hampton said the best way to stay safe is to slow down and stay aware. Along Highway 13 between Rifle and Meeker, which sees a record number of vehicle-animal collisions, CDOT officials are going so far as to change the nighttime speed limit to force drivers to reduce their speed.”The bottom line is, if you give yourself time you can avoid those collisions,” Hampton warned motorists. He recommended drivers use their brakes, not the steering wheel, to avoid animals on the road. Drivers swerving around game often plummet off the road, he said, and it is best to just slow down and even hit an animal than to steer into a ditch.”If you hit one and kill one, we’ll make more deer. We can’t make more YOU,” Hampton said.CDOT has placed a flashing “Wildlife on Roadway” sign on the western end of 82, near Glenwood, and both Lumsden and Hampton recommend motorists heed the warning and slow down.Vail, Colorado

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