Teton County Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Database Summary Report 2016/2017
Wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVC) are most prevalent during the winter months (December – February), and generally highest during particularly severe winters. In past years, Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation (JHWF) has produced an annual WVC synthesis report based on the calendar year. However, in order to more accurately capture the increase in WVCs during the winter months, we will now produce an annual report that covers the time period of May 1 – April 30 (e.g. May 1, 2016 – April 30, 2017 = 2016-2017). This will be a better representation of the seasonal trends associated with WVCs in Teton County, WY.
An additional 362 WVC records were incorporated into the database for the period from May 1, 2016 – April 30, 2017. This brings the total number of recorded WVCs from 1990-2017 to 4,916. The number of WVCs in 2016-2017 was the second highest annual number, after 372 WVCs recorded for 2010-2011. The winters of both 2016-2017 and 2010-2011 were exceptionally severe in regards to snowpack, which likely influenced the number of ungulates (especially mule deer) that were concentrated in the valley in close proximity to roads.
For some species, the number of WVCs may be large enough to impact populations. For example, over the past 7 years, at least 1,328 mule deer have been killed by WVCs. Over the same time period, 123 moose have been killed by WVCs. In the case of moose, the Jackson Moose Herd is estimated to number approximately 400 individuals (Alyson Courtemanch, Wyoming Game & Fish Department, pers. comm.). Wildlife-vehicle collisions are contributing a relatively high source of mortality for both of these ungulate species in Teton County.
Wildlife Killed on Teton County Roadways 2016/2017 Outside GTNP
Mule Deer Killed in Teton County Since 2010
Average Cost of 1 Moose WVC
Moose Killed on Teton County Roadways Since 2010
Economics of Wildlife Mortalities
Every wildlife-vehicle collision has an impact on the community. A wild animal loses its life trying to cross a road. A driver may suffer injuries and damage to their vehicle. Passersby experience the sadness of the sight of a carcass. Scavenging animals are endangered as they approach the easy food source. WYDOT, Wyoming Game & Fish Department and local police are often summoned to the site to assess, record and remove the carcass. Individually, these occasions are costly and unfortunate. Collectively, the impact is even greater.
Researchers have assessed the hard economic cost of each collision, and those numbers are presented here. The intrinsic value of the life of any wild species and the economic value that animal retains for the benefit of tourism, photography and wildlife-watching must be considered as well, even if those numbers are more difficult to pinpoint.
Average Estimated Costs of Wildlife Collisions
According to a report entitled “Cost-Benefit Analysis of Mitigation Measured Aimed at Reducing Collisions with Large Ungulates in the United States and Canada: A Decision Support Tool” (Huijser et al, Ecology and Society, 2009), the average estimated cost of a single deer collision is $6,617, an elk $17,483, and a moose $30,760. These costs are arrived at after considering vehicle repair costs, human injury costs, towing, accident attendance and investigation, an animal’s value to hunting, and carcass removal and disposal costs.
WVC Economic Impact to Teton County, Wyoming for 2016/2017*:
- Mule Deer: 269 collisions times $6,617 per collision = $1,779,973
- Elk: 48 collisions times $17,483 per collision = $839,184
- Moose: 18 collisions times $30,760 per collision = $553,680
TOTAL = $3,172,837
*Based on the assumptions from Huijser et al, Ecology and Society, 2009
Give Wildlife a Brake Projects
On Teton County roadways outside of Grand Teton National Park, 259 animals were killed in wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs) in 2015. Collisions mean injury to motorists, costly vehicle repairs, and death to an animal trying to move from one habitat to another. The good news is that simple mitigation measures can make a difference as part of a comprehensive strategy. We’re monitoring a series of mitigation measures on WY 390, where we’ve placed 3 dynamic message signs and 4 fixed radar signs, in addition to a local campaign to reduce nighttime speed limits. Collisions involving moose, deer and elk have dropped significantly in the past 3 years. For example, while 36 moose were hit and killed on WY 390 from 2010-2014, there were zero moose mortalities recorded in 2015. While it’s still too early to conclude that these measures have caused the decline in WVCs, we’re encouraged that the collective campaign appears to have had a positive impact.
RU2Fast Fixed Radar Signs
Four RU2Fast signs on WY 390 – an area of frequent wildlife movement near the vital Snake River corridor – detect driver speeds compared to the posted day/night speed limit. When the speed limit is exceeded, a flashing SLOW DOWN signal alerts drivers and if the speed limit is surpassed by more than 5 MPH, red and blue flashing lights offer a more alarming speed-check. A concerted effort to slow the speed of traffic may be contributing to a reduction of collisions on WY 390 over the past 3 years. Financial support from the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole and other generous donors has enabled us to purchase this series of fixed radar signs ($7,500 each).
Camera Traps Show Wildlife Movement in Crossing Areas
As part of a larger Safe Wildlife Crossings initiative with a host of partners (Center for Large Landscape Conservation, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Teton Conservation District, Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative), we have placed camera traps near wildlife movement zones identified as potential sites for planned wildlife crossing structures to get a better sense of how the animals are using the areas, and which animals are most prevalent near the roadways. While data for large ungulates is fairly robust, information we find on smaller mammals and other fauna can help inform the design of future structures to aid crossing. The images also help to educate the public about the importance of removing barriers to wildlife movement while providing more support information for future transportation planning and large landscape connectivity discussions.
Dynamic Message Signs
Dynamic message signs alert drivers to slow down in critical wildlife crossing areas. Their portability allows us to work with the Wyoming Department of Transportation to relocate them periodically to ensure that the signs coincide with the most current wildlife movement patterns and potential conflict zones. With thanks to generous individual donors such as the late Uta Olson, we have been able to purchase and deploy 7 dynamic message signs ($17,500 each).
Wildlife-Vehicle Collisions Data Maps for Teton County 1990 – 2015
This is the latest data collected for wildlife-vehicles collisions in Teton County from 1990-2015. There are five maps that show data for All Species, Elk, Moose, Deer, and Non-Ungulate collisions in the Jackson Hole area. Please hover over the maps and use the arrows to scroll through the five different maps.
The full report details how many of any species has been hit relative to other species. Far more mule deer are hit than moose, for example, even if the species maps show similar volumes of hotspots. Further studies that integrate traffic volume trends, seasonal weather effects and other variables are planned.
These maps contain a kernel density with a 300 m search radius from each point. We also have maps that contain a kernel density with a 100 m search radius – enhanced precision that is useful to mitigation planning if less appealing aesthetically. Contact JHWF’s Executive Director, Jon Mobeck, if you are interested in utilizing these maps: email@example.com.
Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation
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Jackson, WY 83002
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