WYDOT collects animal carcasses that have succumbed to winter weather
With spring thaw upon us, decreasing snow piles are revealing how severe the winter really was on wildlife. For the past few weeks, Wyoming plow drivers have watched as elk, mule deer and antelope starve or freeze to death, succumbing to winterkill. Recently, a Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) crew collected wildlife carcasses along a five-mile stretch of I-80 and an 18-mile stretch of U.S. Route 189, according to the Cowboy State Daily.
The tally? 34 deer, 14 antelope and three elk. It’s definitely not the job plow drivers signed up for, but it’s only the beginning.
“In our area, we have probably another 80 miles of highway to cover (in carcass collection), just as a guesstimate,” said WYDOT plow driver Jason Fry, adding that “it’s a sad year for the animals in general.”
“It’s a combination of things. They’re starving or freezing along the roadside, or they’re getting desperate and coming out onto the roads and getting hit. Either way, it’s ultimately the hard winter that’s killing them.”
And antelope seem to be having a tougher time than other wildlife, as GOHUNT previously reported.
“The antelope are getting so tired of the snow, they’re just coming right out on to the interstate,” said Fry. “People are telling us that they’re seeing antelope just laying right in the middle of the interstate trying to pick up the heat from the asphalt.”
Hunters should expect fewer tags and potentially shorter seasons in areas hit the hardest like the Rawlins-Red Desert area where wildlife officials believe nearly 50% of the antelope have died along with mule deer and elk. In the Baggs-Wamsutter-Dixon area, it’s predicted that 80% of the antelope will likely die “along with significant numbers of deer and elk,” according to Sen. Larry Hicks (R-Baggs).
As for when the snow will let up, everyone is still waiting.
“It snowed again last night,” said Fry. “So, today, we’re going to be plowing.”