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State wants deer protection

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By K.C. Mehaffey
Wenatchee World

Highway underpasses proposed at a wildlife bottleneck in the Okanogan will help deer and people, reports the Wenatchee World. Conservation NW's Jay Kehne says the project could pay for itself in 3-4 years.


TONASKET — A stretch of Highway 97 between Riverside and Tonasket where drivers are among the most likely to hit a deer could one day see wildlife fencing and two underpasses — if the state ever comes up with the funds.

The state Department of Transportation has developed a $5.6 million plan that includes fencing along 10.5 miles of the highway from Riverside to Janis Bridge and funnelling deer and other wildlife under the highway in two locations.

The agency removes an average of 145 deer carcasses per year from the stretch of roadway, which sees about 4,100 vehicles daily.

“Other than a cost estimate, we haven’t gone anywhere with it. There’s no source of funding,” Kelly McAllister, Department of Transportation wildlife biologist in Olympia, said of the proposal.

Jay Kehne, an outreach coordinator for Conservation Northwest, said he’s trying to garner support for the proposal, and organizations that might help fund it.

Kehne said the project could pay for itself in three or four years, considering the property damage to vehicles, and the time and money spent by state DOT crews to remove the animals from the highway.

According to the state DOT’s, 3,500 large animals are removed from the state’s highways each year. The wildlife collisions result in about 1,190 human injuries and two fatalities annually.

Deer and elk are most often hit.

High numbers of deer also are killed each year on state highways in the Methow Valley, and on busy highways both north and west of Wenatchee.

Other high-collision areas in Eastern Washington include state highways north of Spokane, state highways north of Goldendale, and on I-90 near Easton and Cle Elum.

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