GREEN RIVER -- They are snapshots of success for Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologists.
Cameras installed at the six underpasses in southwest Wyoming's Nugget Canyon near Kemmerer showed thousands of big game animals, mostly mule deer, used the transportation corridors during October through December.
Game and Fish managers said the recently captured images of big game animals using the underpasses confirm the success of the project. Officials have also observed a big drop in vehicle-animal collisions.
The state installed six deer underpasses along U.S. Highway 30 in Nugget Canyon in the summer of 2008. It is Wyoming's largest effort to date in assisting migrating mule deer across the busy highway and protecting motorists from big game collisions with animals.
The agency installed webcams in the tunnels and the data continues to reveal how successful the underpasses are, Game and Fish officials said.
Thousands of mule deer used the new underpasses each month during the fall/winter migration season, the images show.
"The Nugget Canyon project continues to function exceptionally well," Green River wildlife management coordinator Mark Zornes said in a recent media release.
He said between Oct. 1 and Dec. 22, a total of 6,154 mule deer moved south through the Nugget Canyon underpasses, and 432 animals moved from south to north.
He said other wildlife, including elk and moose, are also using the underpasses.
Seven highway underpasses have been installed in Nugget Canyon on U.S. Highway 30, between Cokeville and Kemmerer, since 2000.
"The underpass at milepost 30.5 continues to lead the pack, with nearly 50 percent of the crossings," Zornes said. "However, it's the oldest underpass, constructed in 2000."
He said Hall Sawyer, a research biologist with Western EcoSystems Technology, Inc., is monitoring and collecting data on the Nugget Canyon underpasses.
An eighth underpass was completed in September along a busy stretch of Highway 789 north of Baggs.
Zornes said the Baggs underpass has allowed for 3,279 deer through the portals since September, the majority of which moved westward to winter range.
"The (Baggs) underpass nearly equaled the use of the most heavily used underpass in Nugget Canyon, which is 10 years old," he said. "Vehicle-related mortalities are down significantly from the previous year."
Zornes said three other sites along Highway 789 were recently selected for the design and installation of possible underpasses.
The Nugget Canyon and Baggs projects are part of a larger state effort to assist migrating mule deer across many busy Wyoming highways through the construction of a series of underpasses.
State officials have plans to construct a network of 30 or more wildlife underpasses and overpasses along sections of U.S. Highway 191 near historic Trapper's Point west of Pinedale and on Interstate 80 near Elk Mountain and Wamsutter.
Installation of the highway underpasses is a joint project between the Wyoming Department of Transportation, the Game and Fish Department, the Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative, the Wyoming Natural Resource Trust Fund, the Little Snake River Conservation District and private landowners.
Contact southwest Wyoming bureau reporter Jeff Gearino at 307-875-5359 or email@example.com