RECo & "The Path of the Pronghorn"

RECo & "The Path of the Pronghorn"

Trapper's Point Wildlife Crossing
Reinforced Earth Product in Field
Pinedale, WY
Wyoming DOT
Reiman Corporation

The Pronghorn is a hearty antelope-like animal endemic to central and western North America. Roughly half of the 700,000 pronghorns living today reside in Wyoming, drawn to the wide open plains and grasslands of the Cowboy State.  Since prehistoric times, Trapper’s Point near Pinedale, WY has been a critical corridor for the annual migration of pronghorn and mule deer in western Wyoming.  In the fall, thousands of animals make their way from the cold and snowy northern Teton Range to warmer weather in southern Wyoming, traveling up to 160 miles for mild winter temperatures and more accessible food.  The pronghorns then return to Teton Park in the warmer months to raise their fawns.  This 6,000-year-old “Path of the Pronghorn” is the second longest wildlife migration route in the Western Hemisphere, and the only federally designated wildlife corridor in the United States.

Today, another path through Trapper’s Point is used by millions of visitors traveling on US Highway 191 and 189 to the town of Jackson, Wyoming.  This is the prime launching point for Teton and Yellowstone National Parks in the summer, and home to steep powder skiing at Jackson Hole resort in the winter.  The highways have also seen significant increases in volume due to nearby natural gas discoveries and development in the last decade.  In 2008, over 700 pronghorns were photographed crossing highway 191 in a single day.  The effect of these two paths converging has been tragic.  75% of the pronghorn migratory routes have been blocked or hindered mainly due to road construction. Between 2000 and 2009, animal-vehicular collisions resulted in 538 wildlife deaths along this busy stretch of highway, and the financial impact of these accidents is estimated at near $800,000 annually.

In order to make the journey safe for both parties, Wyoming DOT teamed up with government transportation and wildlife agencies along with numerous national and local conservation organizations to come up with a solution.  As part of a 5 year study, researchers outfitted 400 pronghorns with GPS tracking units to determine the most popular migratory routes.  A plan was then laid out to build 6 new underpasses and 2 overpasses lined with 31 miles of 8’ fencing to provide safe passage across this busy thoroughfare.

The Reinforced Earth Company (RECo) collaborated with Reiman Corporation to create two structures with precast panel headwalls now serving as wildlife crossings over US 191 & 189.  RECo designed headwalls on both structures using 5’ x 10’ rectangular panels with a deep stone architectural finish. Reiman Corporation cast the panels and began building the structures in the summer of 2012 and completed and painted in the summer of 2013.  The plan worked so well, pronghorns were seen using the overpasses even before construction was complete. Now, WYDOT shows the pronghorns use of the designated crossings at nearly 100%, a remarkable statistic illustrating the adaptability of these majestic animals.

Since completion, the Trapper’s Point Wildlife Crossing Project has won Wyoming engineering awards and various awards from the National Parks Conservation Association and the Federal Highway Administration. The project has also seen widespread acclaim for the protection of migratory routes and overall wildlife conservation. On average, Wyoming sees 1,800 wildlife vehicular accidents every year, and the dollars saved by reducing that damage at Trapper’s Point is expected to exceed the $9.7 million project cost in just 12 short years. Wyoming is a state that truly embraces its Wild West image and isn’t afraid to open up its pocketbook to protect what makes it wild. The Reinforced Earth Company is proud to be a part of such a meaningful project.