Highway 22/390 moose collisions

A Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation graphic shows deadly areas for moose.

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 env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them for 7 years. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

(12) comments

Rick Bell

Years ago I drove a START bus through that area at night, one night I almost hit a Moose, they are near the same dark color of the road surface, luckily I saw a small white patch on it's leg or I wouldn't have seen it till it was too late, Moose simply perfectly match the road surface at night, people can't react in time. I drove on a road in another State that was very light colored and animals were extremely easy to spot, I say resurface the road in this problem area to a very light color so these Moose are easily spotted, it would be a great solution.

Rick Bell

Los Angeles has been coating it's streets white, it would work great at this intersection area of Highways 22/390, it cost effective, about $40,000 a mile and lasts 7 yrs, also cools the road surface in the summer by about 25 degrees (the reason L.A. is using it). The coating is called CoolSeal. The dark colored Moose would stand out on this white surface at night.

Ken Chison

Not saying its a bad idea Rick, but, could you imagine trying to navigate a white hiway during Wyomings winter? I think it would be better to bleach the 12 moose left alive in Teton county white instead.

Rick Bell

I think just coating maybe 1/2-1 mi. on each side of Hyw 22 where it meets 390, and a mile or two up 390 from 22 would suffice.

Gregory Burns

The speeding along 22 and 390 is out of control. When driving the speed limit (which should be lowered) I get locals, tourist and taxi drivers riding my bumper. This slaughter has to stop. We need 1. more large blinking signs along the highway. They should be moved periodically to different locations so drivers don't get used to them, 2. More radar speed indicators or even cameras to identify speeders, 3. Increased presence of Sheriff and Wildlife Officers along this area, 3. WDOT or Teton County should install overhead gantries (similar to toll camera systems) with flashing lights and signage indicating large game in the area, even cameras. All this could be completed fairly quickly and at much less cost than an overhead wildlife corridor. The community should rally around an effort to protect the big game in this area similar to its support of Old Bill's Fun Run! Greg Burns

Terry Milan

The animal crossing lobby seems to have a hysterical reaction which gets more high pitched with each incident. Not sure whether they are around during the winter, but moose tend to climb over snow banks to get to the road. So what is thier plan, to plow paths through the woods? They have reduced the speed limits and that helped a little. But let's face it, you see tunnels through 6' of snow where a car almost drilled its way to the bike path. This isn't because the driver was observing the speed limit. More practically, there needs to be stepped up enforcement, particularly around the hotspots. Distracted drivers need to be removed from the roads. Teton County has to be one of the worst that I have seen for people using cell phones while they drive. I see it all the time, enough that I'm more concerned with my own safety. There needs to be an ordinance that prohibits device use while driving. With each accident cell phone records should be subpeonaed automatically. Given the whimsical nature of the moose, I don't see special crossings being practical. It will probably draw tourists to those spots, the moose will most likely want to avoid the tourists if they can.

Ken Chison

It's funny how a large group of the locals, who have created the problem, act like they care the most. They should give up any homes and structures that are within 250 yards of the river, either side. The walkways, bike paths and fences all need removed and returned to it's normal habitat. I just can't figure why Jhs residents are forever harassing and trying to destroy what wildlife we have left. And when a governing body wants a climbing wall over wildlife crossings, I just have to shake my head.If you want to climb, there's a big chunk of granite north of town.

sean henry

why don't all you non profits start with your rich friends to pony up 15m for the crossings,where does it say in the mission statement to go after tax dollars. find more sugar daddys,

Jay Westemeier

Just like every other resort town in this country, if you want to live in Jackson, you better be ready and willing to help pay for a lot of things you don't want.

Terry Milan

Yes, has snob appeal. Of course, snobs don't do their own yard work. Make it a plantation and squeeze the slaves.

Jay Westemeier

What else do the slaves have to do in Wyoming? Pick up road kill?

Terry Milan

Can just leave it there and let nature take care of it. A nice reminder to any one driving by with their windows down.

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