Teton County factored heavily in a recent Wyoming study of the most critical statewide road projects needed to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and barriers to migration.
Eight highway stretches in and around Jackson Hole made the list of 43 priority trouble spots. Created by a joint team of the Wyoming Department of Transportation and Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the list aims to prioritize wildlife crossing projects for planning and funding.
“Having the high priorities identified statewide is beneficial,” Scott Gamo, WYDOT environmental services manager, said in a statement.
“We can now incorporate these locations into our planning program, enabling us to identify highway projects early on that could include some design of wildlife passage features,” Gamo said.
The group that generated the list is called the Wyoming Wildlife and Roadway Initiative Team. It came up with 240 potential projects and elevated about one-sixth of those to the statewide priorities list.
In terms of priority, Teton County entries start with the 6-mile stretch of South Highway 89 nearest the town of Jackson, a particularly collision-prone stretch for mule deer and elk.
As the highway between Jackson and Hoback Junction is widened, WYDOT will also add wildlife-proof fences and underpasses for wildlife. But the northernmost stretch of the road before town is not receiving the wildlife infrastructure.
A 1.2-mile run of North Highway 89, near where the road climbs past the Jackson National Fish Hatchery toward Grand Teton National Park, also ranks high on the list, also for deer and elk collisions.
Highway 22 earns two priority spots. Moose, elk and deer collisions were deemed a critical problem along the 3.8 miles between Spring Gulch Road and the Highway 390 intersection where several high-profile incidents of motor vehicles striking and killing moose have occurred. Also problematic for moose is a 1.1-mile stretch near the Idaho border and the Teton Pass weigh station.
Again because of moose collisions, a mile of Highway 390/the Village Road between Highway 22 and North Lily Lake Lane made the list. Further north, due to moose and mule deer, a 2-mile stretch of 390 from Wilderness Drive to the Snake River Ranch Road are being prioritized.
Two segments of highway near Hoback Junction also registered in critical need of being addressed. Five miles of 189/191 were listed because of elk collisions and migration in the Camp Creek area.
The two miles of Highway 89/26 from Dog Creek to Hoback Junction also made the list due to issues with elk. Both of these entries are located adjacent to elk feedgrounds run by Game and Fish.
All of the priority Jackson Hole stretches of road named by the state are already identified in Teton County’s wildlife crossings plan, approved this summer.
The No. 1 priority area statewide isn’t located in Jackson Hole, but it’s a familiar run of highway for road-trippers heading east out of the valley or hikers heading into the Winds. That would be 26 miles of Highway 20/26 between Dubois and Dinwoody Lakes, a veritable graveyard for mule deer and also a problematic stretch of road for bighorn sheep.