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Survey: Strong Support in OR for Protecting Wildlife Migration Routes

Wildlife crossings for U.S. Highway 97 in central Oregon could serve as templates for the rest of the state. (Simon Wray/ODFW)
Wildlife crossings for U.S. Highway 97 in central Oregon could serve as templates for the rest of the state. (Simon Wray/ODFW)
April 17, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. - Most Oregonians want to protect wildlife migration corridors, according to the latest poll results.

The survey - commissioned by The Pew Charitable Trusts and conducted by GBAO in February before the COVID-19 outbreak - finds 86% of Oregon voters think it's important to conserve migration routes for species like deer, elk and pronghorn, and the same number want the state to build special passages across or under highways to protect these routes and drivers.

Ken McCall, vice president of the Oregon Hunters Association, says his group was "pleasantly surprised" with these results.

"It shows a very positive interest on the part of Oregon's public for our deer population health," says McCall, "and for the human health associated with deer-vehicle collisions that are pretty common in the state of Oregon now."

There are about seven thousand wildlife-vehicle crashes and 700 injuries - as well as a number of deaths - from these crashes each year, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation.

In addition to supporting special habitat designations, 75% of respondents support increased funding to build wildlife crossings.

Matt Skroch, the manager of the U.S. public lands and river conservation program at The Pew Charitable Trusts, says underpasses and overpasses have proven to reduce collisions by 85% to 90%. He says crossings on Highway 97 in central Oregon already are doing this.

"I do think that we have a template here in Oregon that shows that 'win-win' scenario for both drivers and wildlife alike," says Skroch. "And, if done properly, in the right place, these projects are incredibly effective."

McCall says protecting migration routes is in line with the Oregon Hunters Association's mission to protect wildlife, wildlife habitat and hunter heritage.

"So, in order to keep our hunting heritage, our wildlife and our habitat healthy, pretty obviously the passages and the issues with passage on the highways is something that we can have an effect on," says McCall. "A very direct effect, and a very positive effect."

Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR