Wednesday, 09 December 2020 20:57

Minnesota Getting its First Highway Crossing for Animals

Written by Melissa Turtinen, Bring Me The News


...about a mile south of the current highway, so it's a change to the area and for wildlife.


Officials will monitor deer usage, but Dougherty says it'll take deer time to develop regular use of the culvert, noting experience from other states and Canada that have installed animal crossings has shown deer populations are especially hesitant at first to use them.


The culvert is designed to help encourage deer to use it---it's short enough to show daylight through it, which should help, he said.


"There is good information from other states and Canada in the use of these wildlife passages. In our case, the DNR’s perspective on the deer population helped guide this element in a much larger road construction project," Dougherty said. "We’re building a new road along a new route, so it offered the ability to include this in a way that goes under the highway, while also being able to address the issue of drainage during significant flood events."


MnDOT will monitor how the deer adapt to the new underpass and work with DNR and Minnesota State Patrol to monitor deer movement, crash statistics and other data to determine what they've learned, what can be done better and if there are other situations that are suited for this type of project, Dougherty said. 


Although no other wildlife specific crossings are in the works, MnDOT does frequently modify bridges and culverts to allow for wildlife to travel under a highway, Dougherty said. The most common wildlife crossing structure is incorporated into bridge rip rap, called a passage bench, and it's been built into almost all MnDOT bridge replacements that go over water for the past 12 years.


Minnesota's large deer population makes deer a safety hazard all year long, the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety says, with MnDOT noting the majority of deer collisions occur in November. 


From 2015 to 2019, there were 7,247 deer crashes reported to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. During that time...

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