It is deer and elk migration season… a time of year when drivers should slow down and expect to encounter wildlife crossing the highways.
Six miles of wildlife fencing is being installed along Highway 97 south of La Pine.
It protects both people and animals.
An 8 foot tall wire fence is being installed for three miles along both sides highway 97 just north of Gilchrist.
“This is bigger than anything we’ve built before. I don’t think there’s any chance anything is going to try to jump over it,” said Andrew Richardson with Guerilla Built, the contractor installing the fencing.
An average of 100 wildlife collisions are reported each year on this stretch of highway, probably half of the actual number of collisions.
“Ideally, the deer and elk approach the fence and then they’ll go right or left and wander until they hit one of the under crossings and they use those to get under the highway,” Cidney Bowman, Wildlife Passage Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Transportation.
The combination of fences and under crossings is proven effective.
Wildlife-vehicle collisions decreased 85% near Lava Butte where similar wildlife fences and under crossings were installed about 10 years ago.
Deer crossing signs indicate areas where deer cross the road frequently.
If you are driving through an area like this early in the morning or late at night, slow down. Scan the shoulders for movement.
If something jumps out on the road in front of you, don’t swerve. There’s nowhere to go on narrow sections of road.
“If you have time, put on your brakes. Do not swerve to miss the deer. It sounds sad, but hit the animal if you need to. That’s usually your safer bet than trying to swerve and avoid,” Bowman said. “We’ve seen more accidents from people swerving and hitting a tree or another car.”
The more than 6 miles of fencing being installed near Gilchrist costs nearly $1 million.
All the funds to purchase and install the fence was donated by hunting groups, environmental groups, non-profits, foundations and state and federal partners making this a solution to a problem many people agree on.
The fencing should be complete before the peak of the fall deer and elk migration in mid-November.