PARLEYS CANYON — Driving up Parleys Canyon will soon be a little safer.
The Utah Department of Transportation on Friday started putting up wildlife fencing on westbound I-80 near Jeremy Ranch Golf and Country Club.
As the population increases near migration areas, vehicle-wildlife collisions are increasing.
Ralph Hottinger, president of Save People Save Wildlife, said so far this year he's seen "47 wildlife kills — with three elks, 19 moose, 24 deer and one cougar" in the area.
Hottinger said the group of nearby residents who want to see the number of vehicle-wildlife collisions reduced started tracking moose and deer kills four years ago.
“We show it’s a migratory area from the pond on the golf course to the pond at the Gargosa Tubing Hill,” he said. “It’s a natural place because they go there for water.”
The group started working with UDOT over the past nine months to get wildlife fencing in the area, Hottinger said. This year, Save People Save Wildlife raised close to $50,000. With that donation and $50,000 in department contingency funds, UDOT was able to fund the 1-mile stretch of fencing.
Friday morning, UDOT workers began constructing a 7-foot-8-inch fence along the north side of I-80 at Jeremy Ranch. When it's complete in about three weeks, the fence will stretch 1 mile to the west.
“Nobody wants to see wildlife killed on our roads, and definitely nobody wants to see people injured or killed on our roads, so this is really a solution to that,” UDOT spokesman John Gleason said.
The fencing is expected to reduce the number of vehicle-wildlife collisions, but it won’t eliminate them, he said.
"It's not going to be a 100 percent foolproof solution. Animals can still get on our roads, but this should significantly reduce that concern,” Gleason said.
UDOT is working on a long-term solution, which includes building a wildlife crossing and installing enough wildlife fencing to stretch 3 miles in both directions on I-80 from Jeremy Ranch to Parleys Summit. Those projects are scheduled to start after funding becomes available in fall 2017.
UDOT did a study in 2011 that pinpointed the hotspots for wildlife, Gleason said. Since that time, the department has been investing millions in reducing collisions that involve animals.
Crews put in an underpass on state Route 40 for animals to get from one side to the other, and a wider underpass is now in place on U.S. 189 near Deer Creek Reservoir.
Contributing: Viviane Vo-Duc