Wildlife Mortality Numbers Being Repeated, are Repeatedly Misleading…. The Carcass Reports are Mostly Birds
At last week’s IPPC meeting we had a discussion about the wildlife mortality numbers being reported by the pro-advocacy leaders of the wildlife safe passage campaign. One of our members, after looking at the research I presented, asked a very important question, ‘how do we get this information out to the community and county, they deserve to know that the information they are being given is not correct.’ Here is my best attempt to do that and compress 10 days of research into a simple article.
I began with a baseline. ITD provided to the Fremont County Commissioners information from their WebCars reporting data:
◾️2012-2016, mile post markers 400-406 (Targhee Pass), over a 4 year period, 17 wildlife involved crash incidences.
◾️The Fremont County Sheriff’s report: 2013-to present, over a 5 year period, mile post markers 400-406 (Targhee Pass), 29 reported instances.
Fremont County Commissioner Miller presented this information to the ITD board in the Rigby meeting. Please note that Fremont County has always allowed for a common sense margin of reporting error, these reporting methods will not reflect the absolute number of wildlife deaths for every single animal at 100% accuracy.
These are verifiable reporting methods, given that an ITD maintenance crew or contractor removes a dead animal from the roadway-notes the location-and files the paperwork, or that a law enforcement officer investigates an accident/incident, verifies the location, and files the paperwork. This has been the verifiable reporting system that has been accepted over a long period of reporting years throughout our state.
Through examining these traditional reporting methods, I cannot produce any data that even compares to the '165 wildlife mortalities of medium to large size animals in Fremont County’ that is being claimed to have occurred over the period of a single year, as stated in multiple public meeting remarks and in opinion articles in this newspaper by proponents for wildlife overpasses and fencing. That 165 number is credited to the research and reporting of Rene Seidler and her associate investigator. So I went there to look.
This data was found on the IDFG website, it is 22 pages of uploaded mobile data collection. I looked at every single pronghorn, moose, elk, mule deer, white tail deer report for Fremont County to verify case information and location. I looked into many other wildlife species cases in this report to verify mapping location methods.
HERE ARE THE Complete FREMONT COUNTY NUMBERS, ACCORDING TO SEIDLER/and associate H. Turner. I would ask that the reader please allow for a small percentage of counting error on my part. These totals are intended to be illustrative and not absolute. The last reporting date is 9-21-18. I would also invite you to examine the report for yourselves. I have listed the highest number of mortality incidences to lowest:
◾️230 BIRDS, they include sparrows, blackbirds, grouse, hawks, owls, partridge, chukar, and others. Birds make up the highest percentage of roadkill reports. In addition there are, 28 cases of birds that are also included in this report from other counties. WILDLIFE OVERPASSES DO NOT SERVE BIRD SPECIES AND THE MILES OF ASSOCIATED FENCING ARE A NEGATIVE FOR THEM, AS THEY CAN GET CAUGHT UP OR FLY INTO THE FENCE.
◾️46 SKUNKS, there is 1 other case from Madison County included in this report. WILDLIFE OVERPASSES ARE NOT INTENDED TO SERVE THIS SPECIES.
◾️39 SMALL ANIMALS, rodents, mice, chipmunk, squirrels, rabbit, marmot, all in Fremont County. No reports of these species from other counties are included. WILDLIFE OVERPASSES ARE NOT INTENDED TO SERVE THESE SPECIES.
◾️20 OTHER SMALL ANIMALS, badger, muskrat, mammals?( unidentified), cottontail, jackrabbit, badger, in addition, 3 of these are reported from other counties in this report. WILDLIFE OVERPASSES ARE NOT INTENDED TO SERVE THESE SPECIES.
◾️10 raccoons, Fremont County, 4 incidents are also included from other counties. WILDLIFE OVERPASSES ARE NOT INTENDED TO SERVE THESE SPECIES.
◾️12 domestic CATS and DOGS, 3 other cases are also included from other counties. WILDLIFE OVERPASSES DO NOT SERVE THESE SPECIES.
◾️13 FOX and COYOTE, 3 cases from other counties. WILDLIFE OVERPASSES ARE NOT INTENDED TO SERVE THESE SPECIES.
◾️7 PORCUPINE. WILDLIFE OVERPASSES ARE NOT INTENDED TO SERVE THESE SPECIES.
◾️3 SNAKES and 2 TURTLES. WILDLIFE OVERPASSES ARE NOT INTENDED TO SERVE THESE SPECIES.
◾️0 PRONGHORN (the recent pronghorn death near Valley View is not included in this report). In addition to this number, 3 other cases from other counties are included in this report.
◾️1 MOOSE, reported far off the road in a gully, badly decomposed and ravens alerted the investigator to the carcass, no evidence to confirm this was a roadkill vs. winter kill, the date is February 2018.
◾️4 ELK were reported, 2 on SH 87, there is 1 suspect case being called an ‘elk' - where only a blood spot could be seen, is was reported by IMNs between the IP city limit and Big Springs, investigated 3 days later where no ‘body’ could be found. 1 ELK, juvenile, found at the Ashton Hill, shot in the neck/.45 shell casing found.
◾️0 ELK by any reporting account were killed at Targhee Pass this year. (Seidler, Fremont County, ITD WebCars)
◾️4 WHITE TAIL DEER (1 at Targhee Pass), 1 is a duplicate report, 1 is reported near Rexburg/Sugar City map marker. There are also 13 cases from other counties contained in this report.
◾️33 MULE DEER (1 at Targhee Pass), 13 of these reports are duplicates, a single report is duplicated 12 times. Most of these reports are on, or near the Ashton Hill. It should be noted that, we had a lot of game in the spring observed all along the US 20 roadway. They were attracted to the roadway by the calcium/salt based snow/ice solution that had been used over the winter and, coming off that season of fasting and low calorie/nutrient diet, they were hungry for it. Perhaps, the high incidence of deer roadkill this past season can be contributed to by this single factor?
There were also an additional 24 other cases from other counties contained in this report.
◾️ 40 large game numbers (pronghorn, mule deer, white tail deer, and elk) are also reported from other counties.
Personally, I can validate 5 elk mortalities in Island Park this summer. 2 near Harriman, 2 near Federal Hill, 1 near Elk Creek. The incident near Harriman, that involved elk being hit by a reckless driver coming around other cars stopped in the road for the elk, is 100% credited to the driver error and reckless behavior of that driver. ITD board commissioner Lee Gagner for Dist 6, strongly pointed that out to Ms Bejerke at the Rigby meeting when she addressed it. None of these elk mortalities appear in this report. Real incidents and real numbers that are absent, can draw skepticism toward the accuracy of the Seidler reporting method.
Large to Medium Sized Animals and the much talked about- 165 WVC number.
It is very apparent that the ‘medium to large’ size animal definition that is being promoted is absolutely misleading.
It is in fact, absolutely false. “Small to medium’ sized animals in this report are specific in each SPECIES. For Example: a jumping mouse ( is small), size comparison then increases to a squirrel (medium sized) and then increases to a marmot (large size). These are small-to-medium-to-large size RODENTS. Or in the case of the birds, a sparrow is smaller than a grouse which is (medium sized) increasing to the size of an an owl or swan (large bird). These are small-to-medium-to-large sized BIRDS. The claim that "165 medium to large sized animals have been killed in Fremont County", DOES NOT define medium to large size UNGULATES, such as pronghorn comparative to moose. UNGULATES are the medium to large size wildlife species that wildlife overpasses and associated fencing are designed for. …so where did the 165 number come from?
I tried a math experiment. If you subtract the substantial number of birds, the turtles and snakes, the cats and the dogs, and the duplicate deer-elk numbers = 168. Allowing for a small margin of error, the number you arrive at is 165.
Is there a deliberate mis-information campaign being visited upon us? Counting every dead animal can generate high numbers, especially if you take into account the distances of all of the road miles on Hwy 20 in southeastern Idaho. Careful messaging of those numbers can give the impression that a large amount of large game are being hit on our roadways? In the next breath, what has been added to those statistics is an under-reporting argument, but the Seidler data, in fact, does not show that. Only someone generating the data in the first place, or helping to do so, or someone looking hard into it, would ever know or find out this information.
Do the people presenting this numbers at public meetings and in newspaper opinions know what Seidler’s wildlife mortality data really illustrates? Our record requested information indicates that the safe wildlife passage campaign and working group members were collaborating closely with the IDFG on this data collection so it can be reasoned that they do. Both Tim Reynolds and Jean Bjerke presented these numbers to the ITD Board in Rigby.
Mr Reynolds chastised the ITD Board for not working with the IDFG and admonished them saying ‘ITD and the IDFG are barely even talking to one another’…maybe ITD has figured out that IDFG deserves an arms length? Karen Hiatt of ITD has stated that ITD asked the IDFG to step out of the EA process some months ago, and yet we have learned through our record requested information that the IDFG submitted a report recommending 3 wildlife overpasses at Targhee Pass anyway. Rene Seidler sent that report directly to BioWest, the EA team. So we can assume that the FHWA has that recommendation. Rene Seidler authored that EA report.
It is very ironic that the Seidler data ACTUALLY DOES PROVIDE definitive proof that there ARE NOT wildlife mortality totals at Targhee Pass, or any other location along US 20 in Fremont County, that qualifies the purpose or the need for multiple wildlife overpasses and fencing in Island Park. The Seidler data shows 2 dead deer at Targhee Pass, 1 white tail and 1 mule deer, and ZERO ELK June 2016-June 2017.
All three reporting methods are consistent when you compare them, and they show we have less than 7-10 ungulates killed at Targhee Pass every year. There are many other high incident roadways in Idaho where that number of animals are hit in a 24-48 hour reporting period, which does not make them any more or less unfortunate a circumstance, but it does offer a valuable perspective.
Research IPPC and the IP News
Reprinted with permission by IP News.
Prior to the Advisory Vote on wildlife overpasses there is information that is important to understand. This website has numerous articles and other documented information that explains what the wildlife overpass issue is really about, and how our state agencies have been working with groups who do not live in Fremont County. Here are some of the key issues for consideration.
Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) has been a driving force behind the building of overpasses along Hwy 20 in Island park. In 2016, Y2Y created the Island Park Safe Wildlife Passage Initiative (IPSWPI), promoting wildlife overpasses to Island Park citizens. Prior to this initiative, from 2010 to 2014, Y2Y participated in Elk and Moose movement studies along Hwy 20 with the Idaho Master Naturalists (IMN) to identify “hotspots” for their movement. Calling this “citizen science”, Y2Y then credited this as citizen involvement. Neither Island Park or Fremont County citizens were notified or included in these studies. Y2Y also participated in the Patricia Cramer studies for placement of wildlife overpasses along Hwy 20.
Y2Y has also been an active participant with the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) in promoting overpasses through their other initiative Henry’s Fork Legacy Project (HFLP). The HFLP members met with ITD in 2016, prior to any ITD announcement of the Hwy 20 Corridor project to Island Park residents. Y2Y specifically targets transportation projects to implement their objectives. This factual information was found in a records release.
In addition to Y2Y collaborating with ITD, they have also been doing the same with Idaho Fish & Game (IDFG). Creating a “working group” with IPSWPI group members, an IDFG contract employee also met with them. IDFG specifically hired a road ecologist, Rene Seidler, who was instrumental in creating wildlife overpasses for Pronghorn in Wyoming, and she was the invited employee to the working group. This was also discovered through a records request.
The reason Y2Y promotes overpasses is for their connectivity agenda. Y2Y believes that wildlife migration routes should be protected through designated corridors. If a migratory corridor is created it can then be placed under protection status which means the area cannot be used for any type of activity such as development, snowmobiling, OHV use, hunting, or other recreational activities. It would have the same protections similar to a designated wilderness area.
With this type of designation, a migration corridor would also serve their objective to use it as “linkage” between other protected areas, in this case linkage to Yellowstone Park. Since Yellowstone is considered a protected area, a migration corridor that starts with a wildlife overpass would then create a potential, protected linkage point from Yellowstone over the Centennial mountains to the Salmon area. Essentially, their goal is to create multiple protected areas from Yellowstone over to the Salmon area, substantially reducing any ability to live in or use those areas. The Y2Y agenda stretches all the way from Yellowstone into the Yukon in Canada.
The data and statistics have been significantly misrepresented by Y2Y and embellished for their agenda. Data from ITD and IDFG on wildlife vehicle collisions (WVC) and roadkill have shown this misrepresentation. The actual numbers show few Elk have been killed by WVC along Hwy 20, and none of those have been at the site for the proposed overpass(s) at Targhee Pass. Initially, ITD proposed 17 overpasses throughout Hwy 20 in Island Park but has since been narrowed down to just Targhee Pass because of its connectivity to Yellowstone. Idaho is actually ranked 28th in deer collisions, only 1 in 172 collisions.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) is the lead agency on this Hwy 20 transportation corridor. By law, the FHA is obligated to Coordinate with local governments on this project. In spite of county officials requesting this Coordination requirement is followed, the FHA as yet has failed to comply. Coordination demands that any federal project “shall” be consistent with local land use policies. Wildlife overpasses are not consistent with Fremont County land use policies or plans.
To give the appearance of not promoting wildlife overpasses, Y2Y is now promoting “Vote yes for safe wildlife passage”. This is a deception. Do not be fooled by this deception. A yes vote is NOT a vote for safe wildlife passage. It is a vote for overpasses and fencing. A NO vote means that massive wildlife overpasses and miles of fencing are NOT an acceptable solution to WVCs.
All of this information is documented on this website, in articles and under the Library tab. If Y2Y achieves their objective of having wildlife overpasses built, there will be incremental attempts to isolate Island Park from use. All Fremont County citizens will be affected by this. It is imperative that Island Park is represented by local elected officials and not by groups who are not Island Park or Fremont County citizens. Citizens of Fremont County must be vigilant to these attacks and not afford them any opportunity to gain the ability in determining the future of the county. That future belongs to the citizens of Fremont County working closely with their elected officials who welcome advice and consent from their constituencies, which is the purpose of an Advisory Vote initiative in the first place.
Please share this post with all Fremont County citizens.
Making Sense of It All
This blog will help you make sense out of all the information on the website, how it affects IP, previous articles in the IP News, our history, and how efforts continue to put IP into various forms of conservation status.