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Special Project: Gilchrist Wildlife Underpass


OWF is working with its partners to raise the money needed to build exclusion fencing as part of a wildlife undercrossing project on Highway 97 near the town of Gilchrist. Fencing is a critical component of every successful wildlife crossing project, keeping wildlife off the road and funneling them toward the undercross location.

Image: Deer cross Highway 97 in central Oregon.

Highway 97 runs along the east side of the Cascades and across a historic mule deer migration route. Each year animals travel to their summer range high in the Cascades, returning to the desert in late fall. As part of that migration, many will cross the busy highway, resulting in a high number of collisions with vehicles.

As many as 20% of collisions are responsible for all known mule deer deaths in central Oregon. Wildlife-vehicle collisions are a statewide crisis that result in the loss of both human and animal life. According to the Oregon Department of Transportation, two people and 7,000 animals die in wildlife-vehicle collisions each year in Oregon. That number is also understood to be a significant under-count of the wildlife lost to collisions because only carcasses recovered from the right-of-way are counted. The actual number of wildlife casualties is believed to be between 21,000 and 35,000 animals in Oregon every year. Wildlife-vehicle collisions are preventable, and wildlife undercrossings like the one near Gilchrist are a critical component in the overall strategy.

A total of 10 miles of fence will be built as part of the Gilchrist project at an estimated cost of $929,000. As of February of this year, we’ve identified pledges totaling $540,000 with a pending request to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for $250,000. While we continue to seek funding from other sources, we hope you’ll join us in supporting this important project with a tax-deductible donation today. Your gift will help conserve wildlife, particularly mule deer, by reducing the number of collisions with vehicles on Highway 97.


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All pictures used with permission and attributed where necessary. 

Deschutes River image by Erik Dresser