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Field Notes

Covering the natural wonders of the Pacific Northwest

March 5, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Animals on the move: first survey results, and photos galore

The first results are in from the motorist survey of wildlife in the Interstate 90 corridor.


A wide variety of animals travel the I-90 corridor, such as this black bear.
Photo courtesy Western Transportation Institute

Sponsored by Western Transportation Institute and the I-90 Wilidlife Bridges Coalition and other partners, the survey is intended to better understand the animals using the corridor between North Bend and Easton. Motorists were asked to count any wildlife they see — dead or alive — and report it for the survey, launched in November 2010.


Elk are one of the most frequently seen animals in the I-90 corridor — and one of the most dangerous to encounter in a collision. Crossing structures under construction on I-90 will make the highway safer for animals and drivers. Photo courtesy Western Transportation Institute

The results were encouraging in this respect: Motorists saw a wide variety of wildlife, from turkeys to skunks to elk. And most of the sightings were of live animals, not roadkill.


Coyotes were seen by many drivers. Photo courtesy Western Transportation Institute

In its first 12 months, the website received 6,821 visits from all 50 states in the U.S., and 29 other countries. The vast majority of visits (83%) originated in Washington. Visitors reported 240 valid (i.e., presumed authentic) wildlife sightings made in the survey area during the first year, comprising a total of 529 live and dead animals. Sightings included both mammals and birds, with deer and elk dominating the mammals list. Of 475 mammals reported, 423 were alive and 52 were dead.


Most of the animals reported by drivers were seen alive. Photo courtesy Western Transportation Initiative

To participate in the survey yourself, check out this link. The survey will continue for at least another year.

And for those of you who can’t get enough of this sort of thing, here from Conservation Northwest are fabulous photos and even some video of wildlife photographed on remote cameras all over the state — black bears, cougars, even lynx.

The Washington State Department of Transportation is undertaking a major widening of I-90 and construction of over and under crossings for animals along the I-90 corridor by Lake Kacheelus.


A Bobcat travels the I-90 corridor at Cold Creek. Photo courtesy Jen Watkins


The department is constructing 24 wildlife crossings in all, along a 15-mile stretch of highway between Hyak and Easton. They range from enlarged culverts to 150-foot wide widlife bridges, including one overcrossing just for animals.

A wide variety of animals travels the I-90 corridor between North Bend and Easton, including this lovely marten. Photo courtesy Western Transportation Initiative

The crossings will make traveling the corridor safer both for the 28,000 vehicles traveling the pass each day, and for wildlife. For more on the survey, see our story in the Seattle Times, and for more on the I-90 corridor project, see the WSDOT website.


It can be easy to forget the importance of the lands near highways to wildlife. But getting from one side of the road to the other safely is fundamental to ensuring healthy populations of everything from amphibians to large mammals that need to access lands that were important to them in their cycle of life long before our roads were placed across their travel routes. Photo courtesy of Jen Watkins



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