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With the majority of the US 93 Evaro - Polson (The Peoples Way) reconstruction work on the Flathead Indian Reservation nearly complete, wildlife, and natural resource managers on the project are now moving into the next phase of assuring the highway is fitting into the landscape and Spirit of Place. The Peoples Way project set a new standard for mitigating the impacts of roads and traffic on wildlife with wildlife fencing combined with dozens of wildlife underpasses and one wildlife overpass. To ensure these measures are working, monitoring of the wildlife crossing structures for wildlife use is paramount.

The Montana Department of Transportation completed a preconstruction wildlife monitoring evaluation in 2007 and recently has initiated a post-construction wildlife-monitoring project as a cooperative study with Federal Highway Administration, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and the Western Transportation Institute. The goals of the study are to investigate the effectiveness of the structures and to identify best management practices that may benefit future wildlife-vehicle collision reduction and wildlife crossing mitigation projects. More information about these studies can be found on MDT’s Research web page.

A number of motion-sensing animal detection cameras and animal tracking beds have been installed to monitor wildlife use of selected wildlife crossing structures. From these initial monitoring efforts, biologists are finding that numerous species are using the crossing structures, and some individual animals are using them as regular travel corridors within their home ranges. Part of the success of wildlife crossing structures comes from animals having a sense of security while approaching or crossing through the structures. Increased public presence or use of the crossing structures could lead to some individuals or perhaps an entire species avoiding the crossing structures thus not using them for safe passage across the highway. We appreciate your enthusiasm, but please avoid entering the wildlife crossing structures.

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