By Pat Murphy
The Blaine County Commission in January, formally requested
funds to study the complicated problem of preventing deer
and elk from collisions with vehicles on state Highway 75
that leave upwards of 50 of the animals killed each year and
heavy property damage or loss to drivers.
If approved by the Idaho Transportation Department, the requested
$64,500 would be pooled with $1,300 in county funds and another
$500 in private donations in what is titled, the State Highway
75 Wildlife Crossing Mitigation Project.
The study, according to Commission Chairman Dennis Wright,
would attempt to gather statistics on population of ungulates
that cross Highway 75, what attracts them to cross the highwaysuch
as water or food sourcesand what technological devices
might be available to warn motorists and wildlife and avoid
The ITD has designated four hot spots in a 27-mile stretch
of highway 75 between Ketchum and just south of Bellevue as
major migration crossings.
However, farther south and east of Highway 75, a wildlife
crossing on U.S. 20 between Picabo and Carey has avoided road
kills for the past week or so.
Carey Mayor Rick Baird, who also is manager of Friedman Memorial
Airport in Hailey, told the commissioners that a battery-powered
flashing light at the migration crossing on U.S. 20 seems
to have stemmed the road kills.
"Thereve been no road kills in the past week,"
Baird said, ascribing it to the lights. He said such devices
should be installed in the spring and fall when the elk and
deer migrant. If left flashing year-round, Baird said motorists
might become blasé and ignore the lights.
Commissioner Sarah Michael said the Transportation Department
plans to test a system of reflectors at Peregrine Ranch, just
north of Hailey, which is one of the four major migration
routes along Highway 75. The reflectors are designed to warn
wildlife of auto traffic.
Michael also said that U.S. vehicle-wildlife collisions have
become a major factor in soaring insurance losses. She quoted
the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as reporting collisions
with wildlife in the Lower 48 states have cost $1.1 billion
in losses, 150 human lives and the loss of 1.5 million deer
since the organization began keeping statistics.
Wright said that public attention often focuses on the plight
of the wildlife but overlooks devastating property losses
and human injuries.
He described the terror a driver of a small car would experience
if a large elk or deer were struck, and perhaps propelling
the heavy animal through the windshield and into the drivers