Defining Yellowstone to Henry's Fork Elk and Mule Deer Migration for Improved Public Safety

Focus Area

Wildlife & Ecosystems


Natural Resources






2-3 years

Research Idea Scope

TERI Database Administrator Notes.  Not recommended at present time by 2009 Natural Systems Subcommittee.

Along Route 20 from Ashton to the Montana border in eastern Idaho motorists are threatened by the presence of elk and deer on the roadway.  These populations of migratory animals cross route 20 on their seasonal movements between their summer range in Yellowstone National Park and their winter range at the Sand Creek Wildlife Mangement Area.  An estimated that 50-150 animals are killed annually by vehicles between Ashton and the Montana border on route 20.  This research project will define the specifc location(s) along route 20 where elk and deer cross roadway in terms of frequency, timing, and site specific conditions.  The knowledge gained from this project will allow for identification of specific crossing areas to help locate, design, and build future wildlife crossing structures that help the conservation of Yellowstone’s elk and deer populations and improve public safety in this heavily traveled area.   We propose to place global positioning system (GPS) collars on 20 elk and 20 mule deer that cross route 20 as they migrate between their summer and winter ranges.  By tracking elk and deer movements with GPS technology, we will be able to identify, with great confidence, their respective and preferred wildlife crossing areas along highway 20.  Using this information, we will propose structures and associated fencing that have been shown to dramatically reduce the number of elk and deer/ vehicle collisions where they have been installed on other highways.   The project will help increase public safety by reducing the risk of wildlife collisions and increase successful crossing attempts by elk and deer during their.  The study area focus will be confined to 40 miles of route 20 between Ashton and the Montana border at Targhee Pass.

Urgency and Payoff

Addresses important public safety concerns on Idaho Highway 20. Results would inform important and expensive highway improvement projects with objective and scientific data. Use of GPS radio telemetry would provide behavioral and timing information important to improving wildlife linkage and public safety concerns. Addresses an important conservation issue related to Yellowstone elk and deer populations and increasing growth and development outside the park.

Suggested By

Gregg Servheen, Idaho Dept of Fish and Game