How wildlife corridors are helping animals and motorists

  • By Sharon Wootton
  • Friday, May 1, 2015 12:50pm
  • Life

Get ready. Get set. Go!

Dash from the edge of I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass across lanes of traffic going 60 to 75 mph. Reach the median. Take a deep breath. Look for traffic. Wait, wait, go!

In this scenario, you live or you’re road kill.

If you’re human, you know those objects hurtling toward you are vehicles, can roughly calculate how much time you have between the semi and the Tesla, and make a risk-reward decision.

Deer, elk, cougars and coyotes do not have our skill set, which sets up disastrous meetings of vehicle and animal.

The stretch of I-90 from Hyak to Easton cuts through a relatively narrow valley corridor, sometimes between huge swatches of forest and across several wildlife migration routes.

That’s where wildlife crossings come into play.

On an average day, 28,000 vehicles travel over Snoqualmie Pass and traffic numbers double on weekends and holidays.

A safety-improvement project of the state Department of Transportation includes adding lanes, straightening dangerous curves, and building wildlife crossings over and under the interstate at 14 strategic points along a 15-mile section from Hyak to Easton.

In Phase 1, the DOT installed two underpasses (large culverts) at Gold Creek, part of the improvements on the 5 miles from Hyak to Keechelus Dam. Wildlife from ducks to coyotes are using them.

In the next 10 miles, a few wildlife bridges and several culverts will be built. The bridges will not be narrow walkways over I-90. These bridges will be about 150 feet wide with diverse greenery to create an environment familiar to the animals, something that they will cross.

Call them Critter Corridors. They’re being built across the U.S., where collisions with animals cost about $8 billion a year.

Construction on Phase 2A starts in June. This phase includes the next 2 miles from Keechelus Dam to the Stampede Pass interchange and will include the first bridge in the corridor.

The state is planning the unfunded Phase 2B and 3, which includes the next 2.5 miles from the Stampede Pass to the Easton area. It includes wildlife bridges and culverts.

Not enchanting: Olympic National Park officials have closed all camping along a six-mile section of trail between Pyrites Creek and the O’Neill Pass Trail junction in popular Enchanted Valley until at least late May.

Visitors have reported black bears approaching humans and eating human food this spring, and that some bears appear unafraid of humans. The trail remains open to hikers. When the camping ban is lifted, bear cans will be required for all overnight use.

Not endangered? U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) has introduced H.R. 1985, a bill that would remove federal Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves in Washington and Oregon where those protections currently remain in place, including in the Cascade Mountains of both states. The bill would also prevent these states from providing wolf protections that are stronger than those in place at the federal level.

Wolves in the Cascades and other areas of western Washington and Oregon are just beginning to gain a foothold for recovery. And that recovery has already been seriously hampered by illegal poaching. These iconic animals are part of the rich natural heritage of the Pacific Northwest, and there is strong public support for wolf recovery in the region.

Set aside. The San Juan Preservation Trust and the San Juan County Land Bank are working together to buy 141 acres on San Juan Island. This would save land with 360-degree views from being subdivided into 12 view lots that would create an exclusive residential development known as Lawson’s Ridge.

The acquisition would protect important plant and animal habitat, wildflower meadows, trails and an easy road access to the summit.

Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or

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