Launched in November 2010, I-90 Wildlife Watch (www.i90wildlifewatch.org) is a citizen-based wildlife monitoring project that invites motorists to report wildlife sightings along I-90 in the Snoqualmie Pass region of Washington. The project has just released its second-year report, available here.
From November 2011 through November 2012 more than 2,000 visits were made to the I-90 Wildlife Watch project website resulting in reports of 282 valid (presumed authentic) wildlife sightings made by individuals from their car driving east or westbound on Interstate 90 from North Bend to Easton, comprising a total of 241 live and 41 dead animals.
“We are thrilled that a full year after our project’s launch there continues to be interest from motorists in reporting what they see from their cars as they drive I-90 in the project area,” said Jen Watkins, project coordinator with I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition.
Reports represented 15 mammal species, including deer, elk, black bears, cougars, coyotes, foxes, otters, mice, hare, raccoons, skunks, woodrats and one cow, as well as several bird species.
During the second year, several events stood out. Last Memorial Day weekend, a black bear attempting to cross the busy highway near Hyak on Sunday morning didn’t make it: The 250-pound male was killed by a vehicle in the eastbound lanes after reportedly navigating westbound traffic. The vehicle drove away, and the bear’s carcass was collected by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, which reported it would use the hide for classroom education.
In August 2012, several people reported that a cougar was struck by a vehicle on I-90 east of North Bend one evening. Many motorists witnessed the incident, and some of them reportedly slowed or stopped their vehicles to investigate the scene and protect the animal from further trauma.
The second year produced more live sightings along Interstate 90 than dead reports, but the unsuccessful crossing of animals over the freeway is a reminder of the safety risks posed to both wildlife and motorists when roadways cut through wildlife habitats. Within the I-90 Wildlife Watch project area, the Washington State Department of Transportation is working to create safer passage for people and wildlife through the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project. Beyond providing data and a narrative to wildlife approaching and attempting to cross Interstate 90, the motorists reporting wildlife sightings are directly informing department as they construct and monitor this project.
“I-90 Wildlife Watch helps the Washington State Department of Transportation by tapping into several thousand sets of eyes as commuters traverse Snoqualmie Pass,” stated Craig Broadhead, South Central Region WSDOT biologist. “This citizen science effort provides invaluable information to help us tailor objectives and ultimately define success regarding the restoration of ecological connectivity on the I-90 Project.”