Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Motorists contribute to road kill survey

Sightings can be reported on Blaine County Web site

Express Staff Writer

Motorists have reported more than 300 wildlife sightings during a winter-long study aimed at reducing the number of animals killed on Highway 75. Additional sightings of road kills or "at risk" wildlife on or near Highway 75 can be reported through the end of March.

The Blaine County-sponsored "Ketchum on the Road" program seeks to generate data on the frequency and locations of wildlife-vehicle collisions between Timmerman Hill, south of Bellevue, and Ketchum. To a lesser extent, the project also seeks to look at the frequency and location of successful wildlife crossings along the same stretch of highway.

"This information will be used to the best of our ability," said Angela Kociolek, a field biologist working on the study with the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University in Bozeman. Kociolek said the motorist sightings will be compared with data from the Idaho Transportation Department and the Idaho State Police as the first step in implementing a plan to reduce animal-vehicle collisions on the highway.

A feasibilty study for creating animal detection systems will accompany the study's final report at the end of June. The systems alert drivers to the presence of wildlife with roadside warning lights.

Kociolek said another possible means for reducing animal-vehicle collisions might include development of animal migration corridors under Highway 75.

Kociolek last fall showed photographs of wildlife taken by cameras placed under bridges on Highway 75 near St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center and the Greenhorn Gulch turnoff. The bridges turned out to be safe-passage corridors for a number of species, including black bear, pine marten, mule deer, raccoon and a cougar.

To report wildlife sightings on Highway 75 between Timmerman Junction and Ketchum, go to the county Web site——and follow the "Ketchum on the Road" link on the left side.

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