'It's working!': Pics show animals aren't afraid to cross Utah's new 'Critter Bridge'
via UDOT / Facebook

In December 2018, The Utah Department of Transportation opened the largest wildlife overpass in the state, spanning 320 by 50 feet across all six lanes of Interstate 80.

Its construction was intended to make traveling through the I-80 corridor in Summit County safer for motorists and the local wildlife.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that there were over 100 animal incidents on the interstate since 2016, giving the stretch of highway the unfortunate nickname of "Slaughter Row."


Forty-six deer, 14 moose, and four elk were killed on that stretch of highway in 2016 and 2017 alone.

The number of deaths is a tragedy for the local ecosystem but the situation is also dangerous for humans traveling at high speeds on the interstate.

via UDOT

When authorities agreed to build the $5 million project some were skeptical about whether it would work. There was a fear that the animals would be too afraid to cross the bridge. A three-mile cattle fence was installed leading up to the overpass to encourage wildlife to make their way towards the structure.

Well, the skeptics can rest easy, because footage from a surveillance camera recently released by the department of wildlife proudly proclaims, "It's working!"

Surveillance video taken over the past seven months shows that bobcats, coyotes, deer, mountain lions, moose, and even bears all use the structure.

Deer

via UDOT / Facebook


Coyote


via UDOT / Facebook


Bear


via UDOT / Facebook

"From what we can tell, the number of accidents there is down dramatically," UDOT spokesman John Gleason told the Salt Lake Tribune. "At least initially, it appears the investment in safety is paying off. And we expected it to take several years before the animals got used to using it, so this is great."

UDOT believes it will take up to five years of studying the bridge to know if the project will work long-term.

via National Wildlife Foundation

News of the bridge's early success has to be good for developers in Southern California building the world's largest and most urban wildlife crossing. The crossing above the busy 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills, just outside of Los Angeles, will be 165 feet wide and span 200 feet.

The $85 million dollar project created mostly with private money aims to help improve genetic diversity in the local mountain lion population and increase biodiversity in the area.

"Genetic decline, which is the result of isolation from these freeways for these cats is getting so bad, that they're starting to show birth defects," Beth Pratt with the National Wildlife Foundation told LAist.

Two different microclimates have developed on each side of the freeway and this will allow them to reconnect.

"This project offers an opportunity to kind of stitch those two spaces back together," he said, "and allow that transition to occur naturally."



Canva

Prior to European colonization of North America, millions of bison roamed the Great Plains. By the turn of the 20th century, those numbers had dropped to less than 1,000. The deliberate decimation of buffalo herds was a direct attack on the Native American people, who colonizers saw as an obstacle to their "Manifest Destiny," and who the U.S. government engaged in a systematic attempt to eliminate or force into docile submission.

For thousands of years, bison were a sacred, inseparable part of life for Indigenous tribes of the Great Plains, used for food, shelter, utensils, and clothing, in addition to spiritual and emotional well-being. Wiping out the bison population nearly wiped out the Native tribes they were connected to.

Though bison numbers have increased significantly thanks to conservation efforts, governments are still grappling with the ugly legacy, and some municipalities are taking steps to try to repair some of the damage done. As one example, the city of Denver, Colorado has taken the step of giving some of the city's bison population managed by Denver Parks and Recreation to Native American tribes engaged in bison conservation efforts.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less