A Jackson Hole intersection that has gained popularity as a moose-watching hotspot continues its ignominious reputation as a place where moose die.
Tourists’ and commuters’ vehicles continue lethally slamming into the long-legged and large-bodied herbivores near where Highways 22 and 390 intersect, including collisions that claimed two in the past week. The carnage is leaving some longtime West Bank residents who count moose as their neighbors disgusted.
“It’s breaking our hearts,” Coyote Loop resident Carol Kessler said Friday. “We love having them, and it’s really been a treat for guests to see them, but now when I look out there the first thing I think is, ‘How long will he make it?’ ”
The last road-killed moose that met its end at the intersection was a subadult struck Thursday shortly after dark set in on Highway 22. Wyoming Game and Fish Department employee Ben Wise came upon the animal while still alive with a broken hip in the middle of the highway. He ended its misery with a gunshot, and with the help of passersby moved its carcass to the shoulder. The animal was preceded in death by another subadult hit and killed almost directly across the highway late last weekend.
But some Teton County residents see a solution on the horizon. A specific purpose excise tax measure is being considered for the ballot that would fund $7.5 million worth of improvements to the Highway 390/22 intersection area. A separate SPET-funded item the Town Council and Teton County Board of County Commissioners may opt to put on the November ballot could fund wildlife crossings to the tune of another $15 million. The elected bodies will meet to hear public comment about those proposed projects, and others, on 6 p.m. Tuesday at Town Hall. (See page 3.)
“We know where the problem is,” Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation Executive Director Jon Mobeck said. “The $15 million SPET measure is maybe the first opportunity for the people of this community to put their money where their mouth is.”
Already, a Teton County wildlife-crossing master plan identifies the Highway 390 and 22 intersection area as the single highest-priority run of road in Jackson Hole. At least 116 moose have been hit and killed within 2 miles of the deadly crossroad since 1990, and the pace of collisions has picked up over time, according to data amassed by the foundation.
Mobeck theorizes that, aside from more traffic, a combination of pressures is causing moose to cross the highways with more frequency. More people are recreating along levees on both sides of the Highway 22, he said, more people are using the relatively new Rendezvous Park, more people are gathering near the intersection to view moose, and more construction is occurring in the riparian zone along the Snake River.
“These different things are happening here that are just moving moose,” Mobeck said. “I would say they’re squeezing moose habitat.”
The Wyoming Department of Transportation, which is planning a redesign of the intersection that tentatively includes wildlife underpasses, recently funded a research project so that wildlife managers can understand how moose are using the area.
So far 10 adult cows — all of which are still alive — have been fitted with GPS tracking collars, which are transmitting daily data about where and when they’re crossing the highways.
People like Mobeck and west bank resident Kessler aren’t idly waiting for fundamental structural changes to the intersection, like underpasses or fencing. There are stop-gap measures, Kessler said, that could help keep moose alive, be it a speed-limit reduction from the 45 miles per hour posted today, or big flashing signs.
“I’m just so upset right now,” Kessler said. “I know people were looking at this moose the other day, and now it’s dead.”
Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or firstname.lastname@example.org.