Teton County drivers may have noticed four new wildlife advisory signs on South Highway 89 and two more on WY 22. These visible signs (7 ft. wide by 7.5 feet tall) are designed to heighten awareness within a few of the most intensely utilized wildlife crossing areas in the valley. The signs, which were erected by the Wyoming Department of Transportation as part of a collaborative effort with JHWF, the Town of Jackson and Teton County, encourage caution and slower speeds for the safety of the driver, and for the good of wildlife. They include an advised speed that should be considered at all times, but is especially important to observe from dusk to dawn and during winter when snow accumulations push animals onto or near the highways.
Our wildlife-vehicle collision data suggest that these locations are known “hotspots” for wildlife crossing throughout the year, so it is best always to be alert where you see these signs. In the winter of 2016-2017, the 2.4-mile stretch of South Highway 89 that is now defined by the new wildlife advisory signs was the most dangerous for drivers and wildlife, with several dozen wildlife mortalities recorded. The 1.8-mile stretch of WY 22 now flanked by wildlife advisory signs was also an extreme “hotspot.” Like other yellow highway warning signs, the intended message is to proceed through the zone with caution.
“We were very pleased and honored to work with WYDOT and our local government partners to implement as many new measures as possible in anticipation of winter wildlife movement through the valley,” said JHWF Executive Director Jon Mobeck. “To the great credit of WYDOT and our local government, several actions were taken within a matter of weeks. All involved felt that these measures were the most effective and feasible near-term actions.”
Each of these measures were enacted as discussions continue about long-term solutions to address wildlife mortalities and driver safety concerns on every highway in the valley. The conversations between these entities extends a valuable partnership that also includes many other organizations and agencies. A Wildlife Crossings Master Plan, to be released by the County this spring, will provide us with a comprehensive view of our array of options in specific locations.
In 2016-2017, we reported 362 known wildlife-vehicle collisions on roadways outside of Grand Teton National Park. As we continue to plan for wildlife crossing structures where they are appropriate within our transportation network, we believe that we must take action today to improve safety for drivers, raise awareness of the most likely collision areas, and educate the public about the known movement areas for wildlife. We are grateful to the Wyoming Department of Transportation, Teton County, the Town of Jackson and many other nonprofit partners for contributing toward this goal.