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In an effort to mitigate the risks and protect wildlife along state highways, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) has developed comprehensive strategies to understand and reduce wildlife collisions. Through meticulous data collection and innovative solutions, WSDOT aims to safeguard both human and animal lives on Washington roads. Here’s an in-depth look at how information on wildlife collisions is gathered and utilized to minimize these incidents.

Collision Information Sources: A Three-Pronged Approach

  1. Collision Reports: Annually, WSDOT receives around 1,500 reports from local and State Patrol officers detailing incidents involving human injury, fatality, or property damage exceeding $1,000. These reports highlight a fraction of the actual number of wildlife collisions, as evidenced by the additional data on deer and elk carcasses removed from state highways.
  2. Carcass Removal: Since the mid-1970s, WSDOT has tracked the removal of deer and elk carcasses by its maintenance staff and citizens, revealing that at least 5,000 deer and 200 elk collisions occur each year.
  3. Citizen Salvage Records: Legal since July 1, 2016, citizens can obtain an online permit to salvage road-killed deer and elk. These records offer another perspective on the scale of wildlife collisions across Washington highways.

Addressing the Challenge: Strategies for Collision Reduction

WSDOT’s efforts to reduce wildlife collisions focus on identifying high-risk areas, such as wildlife migration routes or areas with high animal populations adjacent to busy highways. Strategies include:

  • Wildlife Fencing and Crossings: To discourage animals from entering highways, WSDOT installs wildlife fencing, crossings, and median barriers. These measures have proven effective in reducing collisions by 80 to 99 percent for large animals.
  • Habitat Connectivity: Ensuring animals can safely cross landscapes without encountering barriers like busy roads is crucial. WSDOT monitors the effectiveness of culverts and bridges as wildlife crossings and incorporates these structures into highway design where needed.
  • Collaboration for Wildlife Protection: Working with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and other stakeholders, WSDOT has conducted a statewide habitat connectivity assessment. This work has led to the incorporation of wildlife protection measures in projects, such as the Interstate 90 Hyak to Easton project, which includes wildlife crossing structures and fencing.

Innovative Solutions and Public Involvement

WSDOT continues to explore and implement innovative solutions to protect wildlife while ensuring the safety and efficiency of state highways. Examples include wildlife underpasses, bridge designs accommodating wildlife crossings, and the use of technology to alert motorists of potential wildlife presence.

Citizens play a critical role in this initiative, not only through the salvage of road-killed animals but also by contributing to the data that guide WSDOT’s strategies. Public awareness and adherence to speed limits in known animal crossing areas are essential components in reducing the risk of wildlife collisions.


Through a combination of data collection, strategic planning, and innovative engineering, WSDOT is leading the way in reducing wildlife collisions on Washington’s highways. These efforts not only protect wildlife populations but also enhance safety for motorists, highlighting the importance of coexistence between human infrastructure and natural habitats.

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