Wyoming Highway “Slaughterhouse” Wildlife Crossings To Get $30M

Wyoming Highway Slaughterhouse Wildlife Crossings To Get $30M

A wildlife crossing on a dangerous part of Highway 189 that’s turned into a “slaughterhouse” for antelopes needs to be made as soon as possible, according to a former Wyoming Game and Fish commissioner who lives in the area. The money for it is set at $30 million.

Mike Schmid has seen way too many dead bodies on the 30 miles of Highway 189 between Kemmerer and Interstate 80 that he has driven on and off for decades.

“If I had counted all the dead deer and antelope I have seen by the road in the 40 years I have driven that stretch, it would have been thousands,” said Schmid, who lives in La Barge. “Going through there in the winter when there are a lot of deer is like going through a slaughterhouse.”

It might not be possible to finish the new wildlife crossing project there until at least 2026.

Schmid told Cowboy State Daily that the reason there aren’t as many roadkill animals this year is because the herds are still mourning the deaths of so many animals during the harsh winter of 2022–2023.

He said that winter he saw “five deer carcasses within 100 yards of each other.” All of them had been hit and killed by cars.

Even though it’s been pretty mild this year, he still sees some roadkill, along with a lot of animals that were hit by big cars.

Schmid said, “Those big trucks might hit two or three animals before they can stop, even if they hit their breaks.”

Heavy truck traffic on Highway 189 will only get worse because of plans for a nuclear power plant and a huge carbon capture project in the area.

Great News

Chris McBarnes, head of the Wildlife Fund, told Cowboy State Daily that things aren’t all bad.

Along Highway 189 between Interstate 80 and Kemmerer, there have been plans for a long time to build five underpasses and an overpass for wildlife. There will also be fences to direct animals to safe crossings.

But the project’s price tag of about $30 million seemed like a huge problem to solve.

But, “Wyoming pulled off an incredible feat in 2023,” McBarnes said, “the money was raised faster than expected.”

About $8.8 million was given to the Wildlife Fund and other groups by individuals and the government.

Schmid, who is in charge of SOS Well Services, said that his business gave a lot of money.

Then, $24.3 million from the federal government’s highway fund for wildlife bridges! This was a huge amount of money.

McBarnes said, “Only $112 million was set aside for wildlife crossing projects across the country.” He said it was amazing that one project in Wyoming got such a big chunk of that money.

“Not much more than a year went by. The event took place in ten months, he said.

Wildlife experts in Wyoming did a lot of work to make the case for how important the crossings are for saving animals. McBarnes said that they also had to keep people and property safe from accidents.

“The science was really on point because of all the work that the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Wyoming Migration Initiative have done,” McBarnes said.

Will it work out again?

A $15 million project to build a wildlife crossing on another dangerous part of Highway 189, between La Barge and Big Piney, was just finished and is now much safer. A number of underpasses have been used by deer, antelope, moose, and even porcupines to cross the highway easily.

They want to start building Highway 189 between I-80 and Kemmerer by spring 2025, and they might be done as early as the following spring.

McBarnes said that the engineering work has already begun.

Game and Fish says that along that stretch, at least 80 accidents with deer happen every year, and those are just the ones that are recorded.

Game and Fish says they hope that the wildlife crossings will cut collisions by 80% to 90%. There are probably a lot more wildlife deaths that aren’t recorded.

Schmid used to be on the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission. He said that state money spent on wildlife crossings was well spent. Wyoming still has a lot of work to do.

He said, “The Game and Fish says there are at least 6,000 wildlife vehicle strikes in Wyoming every year.”

But, once more, those are only the ones that are recorded. Schmid said that when pregnant does are hit, “they have a baby or two inside them” that are also killed.

So, he said, it’s hard to say how much damage is being done to Wyoming’s wildlife.

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