Unhappy New Year For Wyoming Wildlife As Roadkill Numbers Spike 

If you saw dead animals lying all over Wyoming's highways at the beginning of the year, you weren't alone. Roadkill numbers soared all across the state around the holiday season but no one has a handle on exactly why.

Mark Heinz

March 03, 20233 min read

Roadkill photo 12 2 21 scaled

Wyoming’s wildlife didn’t fare so well as 2023 opened – there was a big spike in the number of roadkill right around New Year’s Day, with more spikes continuing into January, according to the Wyoming Department of Transportation. 

The good news, as such, is that roadkill also provided plenty of meals for some Wyomingites as hundreds of requests to collect carcasses for food were filed with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. 

New Year’s Death Spike 

From April until November of 2022, the roadkill tally hardly approached 20 critters a day, according to a graph provided to Cowboy State Daily by WYDOT. 

The numbers started creeping up around the holidays, and spiked to nearly 60 slain animals reported right around New Year’s Day. Going in to January – as far as data was available, there were spikes that approached 40 instances of roadkill per day. 

Probably Many More 

There’s no way to quantify the exact numbers of wildlife killed by vehicles in any given day, week or month, WYDOT Spokesman Doug McGee told Cowboy State Daily. 

But he suspects there are far more than the graph shows, because it only tallies those unfortunate beasts reported by using the “Wyoming 511” app to report roadkill. 

“Please keep in mind that this is a self-reporting tool, so it won’t capture every instance of roadkill,” he said. 

Still, Perception Can Be Exaggerated 

At the same time, circumstances can leave more dead wildlife along the roadway than people might be used to seeing, McGee said. 

“Beyond the app data, there is no real-time number or count. In some of our counties, especially ones where nearby landfills do not allow carcasses, the policy is (for WYDOT crews) to pull the carcass off to the side of the road out of traffic, and that action is not recorded in our carcass counts,” he said.  

And the massive snowfall in much of the state so far this winter hasn’t helped, he added. 

“In addition, the current priority is snow removal and maintenance, especially in such a harsh winter. Our crews have not been actively engaged in carcass removal, unless it is blocking one or more travel lanes, and in that case they are again just pulling it to the side of the road,” he said. “That may be why some folks have seen more carcasses along the road.” 

Bon Appetit 

Meanwhile, some Wyomingites have apparently been taking advantage of the meaty roadside bounty. 

The Game and Fish in January 2022 began allowing people to collect roadkill for food, with permission – which can also be requested through the 511 app. 

As of this January, roughly a year into the program, Game and Fish had logged 412 requests to collect roadkill deer, according to figures provided to Cowboy State Daily by the agency. 

There were also requests to make roadkill cuisine for 115 antelope, 69 elk, 31 moose and one bison.   

Snow Driving Critters Down 

Heavy snow throughout much of the region has been driving animals down to lower elevations, and in many cases, toward roads. 

In one particularly horrific December incident, 13 bison were struck and killed by a semi-truck near West Yellowstone, Montana. 

The animals were likely congregating on or near the roadway to escape deep snow, Montana State Veterinarian Marty Zaluski told Cowboy State Daily. 

The Wyoming Game and Fish began an emergency feeding program for elk at several locations across the state, because deep snow was cutting herds off from forage. 

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter