Guest editorial |

Guest editorial

Dave Hedderly-Smith, Pinebrook

There’s a concerted recent effort to urge the government to construct “wildlife fences” along many of the major highways in the Park City area, presumably to protect moose and just about any wild animal from a potential vehicle collision. I don’t think that this is necessarily a good idea.

The simple fact of the matter is that these animals are highly migratory. They need to get across our highways both seasonally and, in some cases, daily to live their lives. You can’t make them live on one side of the road or the other. Putting a 7-foot fence up along either side of these road will only frustrate their migration efforts and make their lives tougher.

Several years ago there was a local non-profit group that went to great measures to educate people about these critters in an effort to avoid their being run down by our cars and trucks. Unfortunately, the group folded in 2014. But in the time they were working they studied migration routes of moose, elk, deer and other animals and went to great efforts to get signs up in heavy use areas. They lobbied and partnered with the Division of Wildlife Resources, the state DOT, the county and the city, and through their efforts over several years I’m sure many animals’ lives were saved. They didn’t promote fencing but actually took out a fair bit of abandoned fencing in the Round Valley area to better promote wildlife migration.

Prior to moving to Park City, I lived in Alaska where these issues were and are at the forefront. I still do a lot of my work in Alaska. With an estimated population of 175,000 moose in Alaska, it’s inevitable that conflicts with vehicles will occur on the state’s highways. Per mile driven, Alaska has one of the highest rates of moose-vehicle collisions in the world and many of these collisions result in serious injury or death to a motorist.

To help prevent accidents with moose, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game suggests drivers practice the following safe driving habits:

  • Slow downespecially when visibility is restricted by terrain, weather or headlights of on-coming traffic.
  • Be alert. Deliberately and continuously scan for wildlife on both sides of the road.
  • Increase the space between you and the car in front of you to allow for greater braking distances.
  • Clean vehicle headlights and windshields. Moose can be difficult to see and most vehicle-moose accidents occur at dawn and dusk when the light is low and moose are most active.
  • Know your local “moose hotspots.”
  • extra caution near posted moose crossings. Also, watch for flickering in the headlights of oncoming traffic. This may be an indication that an animal is crossing in front of that oncoming vehicle.
  • If you do spot a moose (or deer) on the side of the road, watch for others. Cow moose are often accompanied by calves. Be especially alert if you see cows looking behind them after crossing the road.

    And I’ll add put that cell phone away. I hit a deer when I was on a job near Price several years back, and I was on the phone when it happened. We can certainly also use more signs to remind us of these critters, particularly in high migration areas such as I-80 from Mountain Dell to Lambs Canyon to Parleys Summit and on to the Jeremy Ranch and Kimble Junction exits.

    If we want to keep these animals among us, the solution isn’t going to be trying to fence then onto one side or the other of the highway, the solution is going to be to show them a little consideration by changing our driving habits and keeping an eye out for them. After all, they were here long before any of us came along.

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