Holly Pippel has been a Gateway resident for 25 years. She says there are many reasons elk are moving around so much causing accidents to occur on the highway.
“With the construction, hunting season, developments, and large herds coming down onto these alfalfa fields, it's just a recipe for disaster,” says Pippel.
“This year in the past three weeks there have been 16 elk strikes. One incident two weeks ago was a single motorist in a rental car and he actually hit three elk in one pass,” says Pippel.
According to Fish Wildlife and Parks, there are 141,294 observed elk in Montana. Observed elk numbers near Gateway in hunting areas 301 and 309, there are 714 elk. On the West side of the highway near the North Spanish Peak area, there are approximately 2,063 observed elk.
“There were 360 carcasses recorded and 14 of those were elk. So that equates to just approximately 4%,” says MDT Butte District Biologist, Deb Wambach.
Although to some that number may seem low, Wambach says the number of elk accidents in this area seems higher than usual.
“In this particular area, I think there probably has been [more] I mean, just based on the numbers that have been reported in the most recent accidents,” says Wambach.
Wambach says elk crossings mostly occur in the fall. The Montana Department of Transportation is putting up message boards to warn people about elk crossings.
“With a little bit of help from Zach Brown and the Gallatin county Commissioner's Office, variable message boards will be going up today to alert residents and out-of-towners that there are elk crossing the highway,” says Pippel.
Pippel believes these signs will make a big difference.
“Message Boards that flash that aren't there year-round are going to get more attention than just a sign that just sits there,” says Pippel.