BEND, OR -- It’s animal migration season and Oregon's Department of Transportation (ODOT) has dubbed this “Watch Out for Wildlife Week” because of the risk posed to drivers by animals headed to their winter grounds.
Mule deer are a common site around Central Oregon. But Suzanne Linford, founder of the group Protect Animal Migration (PAM), says numbers are dwindling, "They are at less than 50% of their sustainability. We see so many of them because they’re stranded in our yards; they cannot migrate." Of those that try, many are killed by highway traffic. In the High Desert, deer must cross Highway 97 each fall to get to the Fort Rock area. Linford would like to see the creation of more wildlife crossings, "For connectivity, for them to be able to cross 97 and other feeder streets. We have approximately 5,000 animal-vehicle collisions a year, just here in Deschutes County." She says those crashes cost millions of dollars a year.
According to Linford, wildlife crossings are improving safety for drivers and animals. So far, there are three such crossings in Oregon, "Two are near Sunriver, and they have reduced animal-vehicle collisions by 85% and are being used by 40 species of animals." The third is west of the Cascades. North of Gilchrist, a bridge is being converted into the state's fourth animal crossing, "In many cases, bridges can be modified, culverts can be modified, as well as having under-crossings and over-crossings constructed."
PAM works with ODOT, the Oregon Hunters Association, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife and the Forest Service, and Linford hopes her message will make it to lawmakers so the state will eventually fund construction of more crossings. In an effort to raise awareness, PAM will host a wildlife film festival at 10 Barrel East on Friday, from 6 - 8 p.m. For more information, click HERE.