First highway crossing dedicated to wildlife coming to Minnesota

This image shows the animal crossing bridge in Utah that was recently completed. Photo: KSTP. This image shows the animal crossing bridge in Utah that was recently completed.

Brett Hoffland
Updated: December 03, 2020 05:11 PM
Created: December 03, 2020 03:57 PM

A project in southern Minnesota is hoping to keep animals and drivers safe.

Construction is underway on the first crossing in the state designated for wildlife.

The construction work is happening for the Highway 14 project between Owatonna and Dodge Center. 

"The road project as a whole is something that's been a long time in the works," said Christopher Smith, a wildlife ecologist for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Part of the project includes something new for Minnesota.

"This is unique because it's the first dedicated underpass for animals," Smith said. 

It's a designated wildlife crossing in a box culvert design. It's located just southeast of Claremont. This allows animals can go underneath the highway to avoid any traffic.

"It's likely we'll see a bunch of different critters take to using this culvert and hopefully keeps these things off the road which is better for drivers and better for the animals," Smith said. 

It's an idea that other states are testing out. In fact, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources shared video of their recent progress with a similar project. You can see bears, moose and all sorts of animals crossing on an overpass dedicated only to animals.

Even though there is still plenty of work to be done at the project in Minnesota, there is proof that there are animals in the area not far from the crossing.

"White-tailed deer will readily use an underpass," Smith said. 

Smith says with the deer population in this area, drivers will most certainly benefit from this structure.

"We have reason to believe that it would be a safety issue for drivers," Smith said. 

At one of Utah's sites, a camera is always rolling to capture all the moments.

"We may put up some motion-activated cameras, and certainly if we do we can share video or still images," Smith said. 

The crossing should be operational once the Highway 14 project is complete next fall.

MnDOT plans to study the data, and if it proves to be effective, Minnesotans could see more of these crossings around the state.

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