This Weber State pupil has a plan for I-84’s roadkill downside

OGDEN — Winding via nationwide forest within the northern Wasatch Mountains, the stretch of Interstate 84 between Echo Reservoir and Ogden is gorgeous — until, like many vacationers, your consideration is as a substitute drawn to the grotesque carcasses of roadkill that appear to litter the freeway each few miles.

In a 2015 interview with the Standard-Examiner, one Utahn dubbed it “the highway paved with blood.”

“I would always look in that I-84 corridor there and just see tons of roadkill all over the place,” Timber Erickson, a senior at Weber State, instructed the Deseret News. “I thought, why hasn’t any thorough research been done in this area?”

So the 21-year-old geography main took it upon himself, dedicating his senior thesis to discovering a super location alongside the northern Utah freeway to put in a wildlife crossing, just like the overpass inbuilt Parleys Canyon over I-80 in 2018. The $5 million venture has been heralded as a success by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

“If they did it in Parleys, they ought to do it here as well,” Erickson mentioned.

Erickson used roadkill knowledge from the DWR to establish areas alongside I-84 the place animals incessantly crossed over the freeway, overlaying it with habitat knowledge for giant migratory mammals, like deer, elk and moose — the worst animals to hit.

“I was able to dial in all their data to show where accidents were happening the most near crucial habitat areas that were possibly fragmented by the highway system,” he mentioned.

Weber State University geography student Timber Erickson, right, and professor Bryan Dorsey, left, use a drone to explore locations for a proposed wildlife crossing bridge over I-84 in Summit County on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. The research is part of a senior project by Erickson.

Weber State University geography pupil Timber Erickson, proper, and professor Bryan Dorsey, left, use a drone to discover areas for a proposed wildlife crossing bridge over I-84 in Summit County on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. The analysis is a part of a senior venture by Erickson.Benjamin Zack, Weber State University

Erickson was in a position to slender his search down to a few potential areas: one exterior the city of Morgan, a second close to the interchange of I-84 and I-80 by Echo Canyon, and a 3rd 2 miles southeast of Henefer.

“Henefer, near Leonards Canyon, had the most accidents in the area that were within a 3-kilometer distance of crucial habitat zones for deer, elk and moose,” he mentioned.

Erickson’s venture could possibly be actually lifesaving, as animals on the freeway are typically lethal. Between 1992 and 2005, there have been 30,500 wildlife-vehicle collisions in Utah, 2,030 accidents and 18 human deaths, in keeping with the Wildlands Network.

“If you are barreling down I-80 and an elk walks out in front of you, you’ve lost that fight,” Gabby Saunders, marketing campaign communication specialist with Wildlands Network, instructed the Deseret News in March.

Not to say the hundreds of deer and moose killed by collisions, animals with populations already in decline, according to DWR reports.

Hitting an animal along with your automotive is pricey, too. Reports from State Farm put the common declare for an “animal strike” at $4,341. Near the Henefer location, Erickson estimated there have been 353 automotive collisions with deer, elk and moose over a 3 yr interval. That’s over $1.5 million in insurance coverage claims in that one small part of freeway alone.

Erickson is seeking to have his paper printed in a peer reviewed journal, a formidable purpose for an undergraduate pupil. Even extra bold, nevertheless, are his hopes to in the future see his wildlife overpass turn into a actuality.

“That’s kind of the toughest question out of all this research,” he mentioned.

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