Wildlife fence planned along deadly stretch of Highway 82 near Carbondale | VailDaily.com

Wildlife fence planned along deadly stretch of Highway 82 near Carbondale

CARBONDALE, Colorado ” The state government will spend about $900,000 this summer to try to reduce the number of deer and elk getting killed along a downvalley stretch of Highway 82.

The Colorado Department of Transportation will erect a wildlife fence along one of the deadliest stretches of the road, between mile markers 7 and 11, spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said. That stretch is between the Aspen Glen golf community and Cattle Creek, between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.

“It’s a stretch of highway that sees a high incidence of wildlife-vehicle collisions,” Shanks said.

The latest state statistics show there were 226 motor vehicle accidents along that 4-mile stretch from 2000 through 2004. About 102 of them, or 45 percent, involved wildlife and vehicle collisions.

The transportation department will advertise the job and invite contractors’ bids in May. The project will likely start in July.

An 8-foot-tall fence will be erected along the south side of that stretch of the highway. Six wildlife ramps will be built so that deer, elk and other game that manage to make it into the highway corridor can find a route back to safety through the fence. Dirt ramps lead from the highway side to a notch in the fence that is low enough that deer and elk can jump down on the side away from the highway.

CDOT will install deer and elk guards at access roads, like the entrance and exit to Aspen Glen. Those wildlife guards are similar to cattle guards, but they are wider since deer can jump farther than cattle.

The north side of Highway 82 already has some fencing and wildlife ramps. Three additional ramps will be built on that side as part of this latest project.

Shanks said CDOT has budgeted $900,000 for the fence work, with most of the funds coming from the federal Hazards Elimination Fund.

A state wildlife officer said the new fencing should reduce the number of big-game animals getting killed in that section. John Groves, the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s state wildlife manager for the Carbondale district, said the area is problematic. Elk typically hang out on the south side of the highway from mid-November to April. The vast majority of the animals that get killed are traveling from the south side, so the fence should restrict their movements, he said.

An independent wildlife advocate said the fencing is a step in the right direction, but that more needs to be done to protect deer and elk. Frosty Merriott of Carbondale said the fencing will reduce deaths but not solve the issue of how big game gets across the highway.

“Ultimately, what we’d like to see is an over/underpass fix,” said Merriott, who is part of a “loose coalition” of conservation groups working on the issue.

CDOT seems genuinely concerned about the problem and seeking solutions, he said. The challenge is that an overpass or underpass is expensive. Nevertheless, that type of solution is needed because deer and elk will find a way to get around a fence, Merriott said.

Cattle Creek is where the coalition “will make a stand” and insist on an overpass or underpass, he said. If additional development is allowed where big game winter and in their migration routes, that development must help provide solutions that help big game travel safely, he said. Ultimately, two passes are needed between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, he said.

Merriott, a Carbondale town trustee, also wants to see the nighttime speed limit reduced to 55 mph on Highway 82.


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