Roads, People, & Wildlife: There’s Too Much to Lose
Although a necessity for travel in the 21st century, roads create significant obstacles to wildlife movement and fragment important wildlife habitat. As our local and tourist populations grow, we see significant increases in traffic, perpetuating the need to add more lanes and roads to our local transportation system. Unless we implement more effective mitigation measures, the rate of wildlife-vehicle collisions will steadily increase as animals are faced with wider, busier roads. Our records indicate an average of 194 deer, elk, and moose are killed on highways in Teton County each year, a number that is projected to exceed 500 by 2020.
These accidents usually cause significant damage to vehicles, threaten human safety, and sometimes result in human fatalities. In economic terms, wildlife-vehicle collisions in Teton County cost over $1.2 million each year
After compiling wildlife-vehicle collision data from several sources and analyzing it spatially, researchers identified 22 ungulate (deer, moose, and elk) and 3 large carnivore (black bear, wolves, and mountain lion) hotspots, or specific locations where roads significantly impeded wildlife movement and resulted in large numbers of collisions. GIS specialists conducted a habitat connectivity analysis to identify potential high quality movement corridors for ungulates and large carnivores across roads in Teton County. This was critical for prioritizing mitigation based on the current condition and long-term viability of movement corridors.
The study also provides a thorough review of innovative techniques used around the world for mitigating the impacts of roads on wildlife. There are three general categories of mitigation: modification of driver behavior, restriction of wildlife access to roadways, and wildlife crossing structures. Often, the most effective and cost-efficient options included combinations of mitigation measures. After assessing effectiveness, cost, and constraints associated with each mitigation measure, we recommended potentially viable mitigation options for wildlife-vehicle collision hotspots in Teton County. Since Teton County is undergoing major road reconstruction, now may be the most cost-efficient time to build crossing structures at appropriate wildlife-vehicle collision hotspots.
The Roadway and Wildlife Crossing Study provides the essential tools to make Teton County’s transportation system compatible with wildlife. It pinpoints locations where human and wildlife traffic converges and recommends effective mitigation options for specific stretches of road. However, it is ultimately up to the road engineers, county officials, and the public to use the information in this study to make informed choices concerning roadway development in Teton County.
Download the Jackson Hole Roadway and Crossing Study, Teton County, Wyoming
Why Not Feed Wildlife? For the Safety of People and the Welfare of Wildlife
Many people who love wildlife assume that feeding helps them to survive harsh winters. Instead, these efforts often put the animals at risk of dying or being killed. Animals that are fed grow accustomed to human activity and lose their fear of people. These wild animals may become bold and aggressive, or even dangerous to people and pets.
Even though people may feed high quality food, some animals’ digestive systems cannot tolerate supplemental feeding. Additionally, Wyoming Game and Fish officers often must euthanize bears because they associate people with food or have received food rewards.
Feeding may increase mortality of animals on roads if animals are unnaturally concentrated in roadside residential areas where feed is provided.
Concentrations of deer or elk have attracted predators such as mountain lions into residential areas. “While attacks by cougars on people in Teton County have not occurred, we will assuredly invite one by bringing lions into more contact with people by feeding deer.” Dr. Joel Berger, Ph.D., Wildlife Conservation Society.
Feeding Is Against Town And County Regulations
Regulations state: No person shall knowingly or intentionally provide supplemental feed attractants to the following animals, unless specifically authorized by an agency of either the State of Wyoming or the United States of America: antelope, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, moose,mountain lions, mountain goats, bobcats, black bears, grizzly bears, raccoons, foxes, lynx, wild bison, wolves and coyotes.
Supplemental attractants are defined as any human food, pet food, hay, forage product or supplement, grain, seed or birdseed, garbage, or other attractant made available to the animals mentioned above. It is important to note that this regulation permits the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to authorize feeding if department biologists determine such is advisable. Visit http://www.tetonwyo.org for a copy of the full amendment.
What About Feeding Birds?
The regulations do not prohibit bird feeders, but they do require people who live in Bear Conflict Priority Area 1 to hang bird feeders (including hummingbird feeders) 10 feet off the ground, four feet from anything a bear could climb or stand on and that all bird feeders have a catch basin to prevent seed from getting on the ground. These requirements are in effect from April 1 to November 30 – the time when bears are active. It is important that bird feeders be placed where bears cannot reach them because 40% – nearly half – of all bear conflicts in Teton County are related to bird feeders.
Forty percent (40%) of human/bear conflicts in Teton County are related to bird feeders. For a bear, bird seed is a tasty high-calorie, low-effort snack. Unfortunately, bears who become conditioned to getting food from bird feeders often get into other trouble around people’s homes with garbage, pet food, animal feed, fruit trees, or gardens.
Land Development Regulations in Teton County require that from April 1 – November 30, all bird feeders (including hummingbird) must be hung at least 10 feet high and four feet away from any supporting structure and have a catch pan for seed. JHWF is working to educate people about the existence of this regulation and provide information on other ways to enjoy birds around your home.
One of the primary goals of Nature Mapping is to provide data to decisions makers, research organizations and agency personnel in an effort to support informed decisions that will be beneficial to wildlife and “keep common wildlife common”.
If you are interested in requesting data from Nature Mapping Jackson Hole, please fill out the information found on this PDF data request form and submit it to email@example.com. We will be in touch with any questions. All data requests are reviewed by the Nature Mapping Advisory Committee. This board meets once a month and retains the ability to fulfill or deny requests based on our guidelines.
Please address all questions and concerns regarding data requests to the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation at 307-739-0968 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Data Request Process – How it Works
Requester submits a data request using our electronic form below. Please fill out this form as completely as possible and explicitly tell us why you are requesting Nature Mapping data.
Nature Mapping Advisory Committee reviews the data request at their monthly meeting.
If the request is approved, the requester will sign a data release agreement with Nature Mapping/ JHWF (sample below).
Data will be delivered electronically as either a shapefile or Microsoft Excel document.
Requester’s end products will be delivered to Nature Mapping/ JHWF per the timeline outlined in the data request form.
The intent is for wildlife to benefit from this cooperative agreement.
Respecting Winter Closures – Don’t Poach the Powder and Help Jackson Hole’s Wildlife Survive the Winter
We may be desperate for snow, but recreating in winter wildlife closure areas is not the way to find it. That’s the message several government agencies, environmental groups and recreation clubs hope to spread this winter through the “Don’t Poach the Powder” campaign. The groups want to let residents and visitors know that “poaching” wildlife closures with skis, snowboards or snowmobiles can be as harmful to wildlife populations as poaching with a rifle.
The Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation has a unique partnership with the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Wyoming State Snowmobile Association, the Teton Conservation District, and the Wyoming State Trails Program to help end a harmful practice that continues despite Jackson’s environmentally conscious constituency.
Why is it harmful to violate winter range closures?
Human presence stresses wildlife, causing them to use precious energy they need to survive until summer.
Deep snow, cold temperatures, and a lack of food make winter a stressful time for wildlife.
Large ungulates such as elk, mule deer, moose and bighorn sheep rely on wind-swept south facing hillsides for winter food.
What can you do to help?
Respect wildlife and their habitat by knowing the location of closed areas before entering the Forest and avoid wildlife winter range. Closures are in effect from December 1 – April 30.
Obtain a free winter travel map from any Forest Service office or the visitor center on North Cache.
Help spread the word about winter closures with your friends. Many of the violations are not intentional and could be avoided if the people knew where the closure areas were located.
Obey the closures even when the snow is beginning to melt and dry areas are exposed. Hikers, paragliders, horseback riders and bicyclists can have the same dire impacts on weakened wildlife just coming out of the winter season. Spring is an important time for wildlife to restore depleted energy resources.
Stop at the information kiosk at major Forest Trailheads. The winter closure maps and information is generally posted in these areas as well.
Report offenders to the individual agencies responsible for enforcement (e.g. Grand Teton National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Targhee National Forest).