Bridging the gap for Central Oregon wildlife

A group of mule deer use the undercrossing beneath U.S. Highway 97.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is in the middle of a project to install around 6 miles of fence parallel to U.S. Highway 97 in northern Klamath County and is warning drivers to be aware of deer during migration season.

The fencing is designed to prevent animals from crossing the highway, leading them toward the new crossing under the highway, 5 miles north of Gilchrist. The new crossing, completed in June 2020 at a cost of $1 million, is one of four wildlife crossings built by ODOT between Gilchrist and Bend. A similar crossing near Lava Butte slashed vehicle/deer collisions by 85% after its completion in 2012.

ODOT is installing six deer guards, which are modified cattle guards, along the highway to stop animals from entering the road at gaps along the fence.

Work on the $600,000 fencing project began last month and is expected to be completed by Nov. 12.

ODOT spokesperson Kacey Davey said deer migration has started in Central Oregon and she expects to see more deer moving across roadways through mid-November. Davey said ODOT is warning drivers to be aware of increased deer activity through its highway signs.

“We hope that these signs act as a reminder for folks to slow down, and really keep an eye out for deer during this season,” said Davey. “This is a time when our wildlife undercrossings are especially valuable, as it creates a safe passage for deer where they don’t have to dodge traffic as they move along their migration routes.”

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