The Paunsaugunt Plateau Mule Deer herd is one of the premier herds in North America and is located in Central Southern Utah. In the spring and fall the mule deer migration pattern takes them right across the area of Highway 89 that runs from Kanab to the Lake Powell area. For anyone who has traveled this road during migration times the danger to motorists is significant and decimating to the herd.
This year marks a big change! While the herd crosses in many areas along the highway studies have show the bigger portion of the cross along an 11.5 mile stretch of Highway 89.
The goal of the US-89 Paunsaugunt Deer Crossing Project is to provide safe passage for mule deer and improve safety for motorists and wildlife on Highway 89. The plan is to fence the highest accident area, between MP 36.8 to 48.2. The ends of the fencing will tie into existing large bridges at each end, where animals can cross under the highway. Because of the limited distance deer are willing to travel to look for crossing opportunities, four wildlife passages will also be constructed.
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The 2.4 million dollar project has been funding by numerous organizations in both Utah and Arizona including money from hunting licenses and big game tags.
In Utah alone over 2000 vehicle / deer crashes happen a year with the average car damage being around $8,000 and many sustain injuries. UDOT and DWR are taking significant steps to cut these numbers down and have installed similar fencing and tunnels along I-80 with great success.
For those of us that travel these roads frequently, and for the large amount of tourism traffic, this is a huge improvement, not to mention the benefit for the Mule Deer population of Southern Utah and Northern Arizona.