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December 2012

How Did the Pronghorn Cross the Road?


(Above) a pronghorn buck, (Below) pronghorn cross over Highway 191 in Wyoming on an overpass built along the animals’ migratory path thanks to research and advocacy by the Wildlife Conservation Society. Photos: Jeff Burrell

 
Pronghorn are the fastest land mammals in the Northern Hemisphere, and the last of their kind. The fact that they can outrun predators at speeds up to 70 mph might have something to do with their survival. But while wolves aren’t a problem, highways are. Along the pronghorn’s 160-mile overland migration, the longest of any creature’s in the lower 48, highway collisions pose a risk to both animal and driver.


In 2007, The Trust made a grant of $150,000 to the Wildlife Conservation Society to advocate for the first federally designated wildlife corridor, the Path of the Pronghorn. It was successful. The Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) then committed $9.7 million to create wildlife over- and underpasses. This October, as the sun set on the recently constructed overpass at Trapper’s Point, Wyoming, 100 pronghorn crossed in 15 minutes. Thus far, WYDOT has built eight safe passages along a 13-mile stretch of highway. The passages accommodate not only pronghorn, but also mule deer, moose, elk, and other animals. 

“As conservationists, it seems sometimes that we are spending our time trying to keep things from getting worse,” says Jeff Burrell, program coordinator at the Society. “Today was different. While the structures are only necessary because of a human-created problem, at least humans came together and designed a solution … and one that if today is any indication, will work better than we hoped. Now we just need more of these overpasses, a lot more!”

This grant was made from the Henry Phillip Kraft Family Memorial Fund, set up in The Trust to benefit the environment.


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