News & Media

Mule Deer Foundation Wildlife Crossing Research

by Russell Porter (Brownwood News)
June 11, 2012

Photo credit: Utah DOT

Photo credit: Utah DOT
With generous support from the Mule Deer Foundation and the Utah DOT a large research project is entering its 5th year. Motion-triggered trail cameras have been set up at the openings of wildlife crossing structures. In the first three and a half years of monitoring, the study documented over 15,000 successful mule deer passes thru 14 wildlife crossings built by Utah DOT and the Mule Deer Foundation. The rate of repellence is correlated with culvert length: the longer the culvert the higher the rate of repellence.

As expected, the more open culverts and bridges have higher rates of successful passage. Culverts and bridges not built for wildlife and without wildlife fencing have lower success rates. Fencing is important to guide wildlife to the crossings. Future culverts would best pass mule deer if their lengths were less than 120 feet. Additionally, the width seems more important than height. Wider and shorter culverts work best at passing mule deer.

Wildlife managers and transportation engineers must work together to understand how wildlife-vehicle collisions impact mule deer populations. West Texas has hundreds of mule deer killed each year crossing highways. In most cases they cross in the same place year after year. Funds from the Mule Deer Foundation can be used to identify the high traffic crossings and build culverts or overpasses and 8 foot fences. You can help by joining the Mule Deer Foundation.