New highways around the Jordanelle reservoir are winding through prime mule-deer habitat, and the result has been a marked increase in road kills of the animals.
An average of six of the deer die each week on the new spans leading to Heber, Kamas and Francis. Before the reservoir and its accompanying new highways were built, the deer death toll was about 12 a year, said Laura Romin, a wildlife biologist with the Utah Department of Transportation.In 1991, Romin counted 278 deer killed by cars in the first year after the new roads were built. So far this year, 70 deer have been found - about half of those believed hit by vehicles.
"Estimates were that road kills double with the new highways," she said. "We certainly didn't expect it to be that high."
Larry Dalton, a habitat-management researcher for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, has been working on methods to reduce the carnage.
Dalton has determined that ultrasonic whistles placed on cars to warn wildlife of approaching traffic do not work. Another study found that reflectors on the sides of roads did not deter deer, either.
Overpasses or tunnels for the animals, at $200,000 each, were considered too expensive. But Dalton has come up with a new idea - deer crosswalks.
"I was watching these deer trying to cross a stream and I noticed how much they didn't like to walk on those big stream cobbles," he said. "Those rounded edges really bug them."