Vehicle Collision Kills Gray Wolf in Grand Teton

A gray wolf pauses along a riverbank
August 3, 2010
A yearling male wolf was hit and killed by an unknown vehicle on Wednesday morning, August 4, just north of the Spread Creek Bridge on Highway 26/89/191 in Grand Teton National Park. The black-colored wolf, weighing about 50-60 pounds, was discovered by a passerby around 8 a.m. It was lying in the middle of the roadway and still alive; however, it died before rangers could arrive. The young wolf was probably a member of the Buffalo Pack that frequents the eastern portion of Grand Teton; this pack has successfully denned in the park since 2008.

Park officials did not receive any reports of an accident and further details are not known. According to the Code of Federal Regulations, a motor vehicle operator is required to report an accident involving property damage, personal injury, or death—which includes the injury or death of wildlife.

This is the second gray wolf killed by a vehicle on park roads this year. On February 15, a sub-adult male wolf was hit and killed on Highway 26/89/191 in the vicinity of Elk Ranch Flats. Earlier this year, a 3 1/2-year-old male grizzly bear was hit and killed just south of the Spread Creek Bridge—not far from the current wolf mortality. This is a wildlife-rich area of the park, with brush and trees near to the roadbed; vegetation can reduce the visibility of animals that may be lingering near the road. Wildlife are also typically found near riparian areas, and motorists should slow down, use extra caution, and be more alert while driving through riparian areas or locations with limited roadside visibility .

Each year in Grand Teton, an average of one or more wolves and bears (grizzly and/or black) are involved in vehicle collisions that result in the injury or death of the animal. In the past five years, vehicle-related deaths of wolves and bears include: 2006, one black bear and one gray wolf; 2007, two black bears and one grizzly bear cub; 2008, two gray wolves; 2009, one black bear; and 2010, two wolves, one grizzly bear, and one bear (unverified species) that was injured, but left the scene.

These encounters between vehicles and bears or wolves—among other wildlife incidents—serve as a reminder that wildlife actively cross and use park roads. Motorists are reminded to drive the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop suddenly for wildlife along or on park roadways. Driving slower than indicated speed limits—especially at night—can increase the margin of safety for people and wildlife. Collisions between motor vehicles and wildlife may result in severe damage to a vehicle, serious or fatal injuries to the occupants of that vehicle, and/or death for the animal involved.

In addition to wolves and bears, other wildlife such as elk, moose, bison, deer, pronghorn antelope, as well as smaller creatures such as beavers, marmots, and porcupines, may also be encountered on or near park roads. Many of these animals have been killed in vehicle collisions. In fact, over the past five weeks, one large animal (coyote size or larger) has been hit and killed on park roads each day, accounting for the deaths of nearly 50 animals.

Vehicles take a significant toll on park wildlife, resulting in the deaths of well over 100 animals per year.