The WYldlife Fund (The Fund) embarked on its inaugural large-scale project, the I-25 Kaycee to Buffalo Wildlife Crossing Project, with a remarkable contribution exceeding $350,000. We are elated to share that the project has reached the impressive milestone of 60% completion, with an anticipated finish by fall of this year. Getting to see a project from beginning to end is hugely rewarding for us, and we can’t wait to see the benefits this project brings to wildlife populations, especially to local mule deer herds.
Now, let’s delve into the backstory of this significant endeavor:
In 2014, during public meetings of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) Mule Deer Initiative, concerns regarding the Powder River Mule Deer Herd’s population were voiced. The population had fallen below the objective of 18,000 animals since the early 2000s.
Hunters also noticed a decline in mule deer numbers, resulting in diminished hunting opportunities. Factors such as disease, habitat loss, and highway and transportation infrastructure contributed to this decline.
A specific section of I-25 near Kaycee (mileposts 255-270) was identified as having the second-highest rate of deer collisions on a Wyoming interstate, impeding the safe movement of mule deer seeking additional habitat. This project emerged as a Top 10 Statewide highway crossing priority during the Wyoming Wildlife and Roadways Summit in 2017.
Statewide, over 6,000 animals, including deer, pronghorn, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats, succumb to wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs) each year. The I-25 Kaycee to Buffalo Wildlife Crossing Project aims to mitigate these collisions by facilitating safe passage for wildlife and reducing overall WVC numbers. The project employs exclusionary fencing to guide wildlife to six existing crossing structures, including underpasses, bridges, and culverts. Additionally, deer ramps, gates, and cattle guards are being installed as needed.
The project entails constructing 36 miles of fencing (18 miles on each side of the interstate), requiring 10,000 wooden posts. An intriguing fact—168,000 hog rings, installed by hand, are needed to attach fencing material to the wooden posts. Jumpouts, like the one seen below within the project, are gradual ramps which help wildlife escape the highway corridor should they somehow become trapped.
The new fencing directs animals to crossing structures, ensuring safe passage for wildlife and enhancing the safety of interstate travelers. Wyoming currently witnesses 21 big-game collisions daily, with eight involving significant vehicle damage and/or human injury. WVCs cost the state approximately $55 million annually. This project aims to reduce these numbers, safeguarding wildlife, humans, and the state’s budget.
The Fund has diligently monitored existing underpasses with trail cameras since the project’s initiation, capturing numerous mule deer and other charismatic species utilizing them for safe passage across the interstate.
This impactful project owes its existence to the generous support of our sponsors. We extend heartfelt gratitude to the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, Golf For Wildlife Outing Supporters, Knobloch Family Foundation, Muley Fanatic Foundation, Williams Energy, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, Wyoming Department of Transportation and Commission, and Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Commission for making this endeavor possible.