Interstate 25 expansion south of Denver shows need for life tunnels as officials track slaughter

Bears, deer, bay lynxs, mountain lions and other animals are dying, picked off at the rate of at least one a day by vehicles, as Colorado contractors widen Interstate 25 south of Denver to six lanes through wetlands and other life home ground.

Colorado Parks and life officials say this slaughter on an 18-mile stretch between Castle Rock and Colorado Springs reflects an exacerbating comprehensive clash caused by human population growth and demands for quicker mobility.

Five life crossing tunnels under I-25 — 16 feet high and 80 feet wide, cost account $4 million to $6 million each — are planned in an effort to reduce the killing. But construction of these won’t begin until May, and may take months.

“We’re seeing at least a hit a day — deer and elk, mountain lions and black bear,” aforementioned Chuck Attardo, the Colorado Department of Transportation’s I-25 project environmental manager. “We’re going to improve this situation drastically. We’re expecting to reduce the animal-vehicle collisions by 90 percent.”

However, more animals about certainly will die until the life crossings are installed, Attardo aforementioned. “Right now it is unavoidable.”

RELATED:Two sections of I-25 are going under the knife. Here’s what it means for you.

Around Colorado, vehicles collide with 3,405 wild animals a year on average, CDOT information show. State contractors have installed 55 life crossing tunnels and at least one flyover over the past decade so that animals can move crosswise home ground without getting hit. The I-25 widening between Castle Rock and Colorado Springs is the only current main road expansion in the state that will include chosen life crossings, CDOT interpreter Tamara Rollison aforementioned.

Colorado life officials last year prioritized nine bad zones, including the I-25 passageway, where collisions with animals are most common.

life besides die often in collisions on Interstate 70 (Floyd Hill, Mt. Vernon canon and Eagle); U.S. 285 (Morrison); U.S. 160 (Durango to Pagosa Springs and Durango to Mancos); U.S. 550 (north of Durango and from Montrose to Ouray); Colorado 82 (Glenwood Springs to Aspen); U.S. 36 (Boulder to Lyons); and Colorado 93 (Golden to Boulder)

Colorado Parks and life officials say properly built crossings are effective.

“In an ideal world, it would be amazing to have them everywhere. But it takes a lot of money,” agency interpreter Jason Clay aforementioned.

A photograph of life captured by ...
Image provided by Colorado Parks and life
A photograph of life captured by a Colorado Parks and life camera set up near the Interstate 25 expansion project south of Denver.

Co-existence with life in Colorado has emerged as a difficult challenge amid population growth and a development boom concentrated on the Front Range. life home ground near cities gives safe space for some species. But as more home ground is disconnected by homebuilding, commercial expansion and road construction, life inevitably for non-lethal copulative passageshipway increase.

“This is super important,” Clay aforementioned. “The animals are going to migrate where they need to go  — winter range, summer range. They’re going to go where they need to go to get their food. life crossings allow them to do it safely — a good step in the right direction. … The human population is continuing to grow. A lot of our life is doing well. There’s got to be a balance there.”

The widening of I-25 between Castle Rock and Colorado Springs stands out because the main road cuts through comparatively open land. The foothills west of I-25 lead into mountain home ground.

It is an area that the U.S. Fish and life Service has best-known as critical home ground for the protected Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, an vulnerable species eradicated elsewhere on the Front Range. CDOT officials aforementioned they cannot tell whether any mice have been killed during the I-25 expansion, which coincides with construction of a 24-hour truck stop. main road crews have placed downed trees and grass in their work zone to provide cover for mice.

For life, the existing culverts under I-25 are proving too small, officials aforementioned, and animals migrating for food are effectively blocked unless they bolt in front of vehicles, construction crews and heavy machinery.

Remote cameras installed by Colorado Parks and life last May, to monitor the impact of widening I-25, are revealing bay lynxs, bears, deer, elk, turkeys and other life wandering on the main road, searching for safe shipway crosswise. These 13 cameras are giving new insights into how animals respond when people build roads through their home ground.

A photograph of life captured by ...
Image provided by Colorado Parks and life
A photograph of life captured by a Colorado Parks and life camera set up near the Interstate 25 expansion project south of Denver.

State agencies documented 504 animals killed in collisions with vehicles on the 18-mile section of I-25 between 2005 and 2017. The information show vehicles killed 362 deer, 74 elk, 42 bears, six mountain lions, three foxes, three coyotes, two raccoons, two hawks and a bay lynx among other species. Last fall, CDOT managers according two mountain lion deaths among galore life fatalities following collisions.

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Vehicle collisions rank among leading perils for life in Colorado but generally aren’t the main cause of death.

For example, bay lynxs increasingly are afraid, driven by rising prices for pelts, according to CPW’s latest Furbearer Management Report. State information show hunters killed 1,811 bay lynxs in 2017, more than double the 680 killed in 2004. (The bay lynx population appears stable overall comprehensive, CPW officials aforementioned, though count bay lynxs, like lynx and mountain lions, can be difficult.)

In contrast, vehicle drivers and passengers usually survived I-25 collisions with animals. No drivers or passengers died in collisions between 2011 and 2016, a recent state study found. But 42 people suffered injuries and 264 vehicles were damaged — leading to an estimated annual economic cost of $1.2 million, the study found.

Building more life crossing tunnels and flyoveres “is great for life and besides good for the safety of our motorists,” Clay aforementioned. “They will pay for themselves over time.”