One year update on Highway 14 deer crossing underpass

While many Minnesota drivers are on the lookout for deer year-round, fall is the peak time for deer-related crashes.
Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 5:42 PM CDT
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NEAR CLAREMONT, Minn. (KTTC) – While many Minnesota drivers are on the lookout for deer year-round, fall is the peak time for deer-related crashes.

“They’re a little more active. Females can be running for males, the males are chasing females, so they tend to be in the roads more in the fall,” Oxbow Park naturalist Jaide Ryks said.

Deer can become disoriented by the headlights on vehicles which can lead to crashes.

“They’re not trying to get hit by a car. They just get very disoriented. They don’t know what’s going on and people don’t slow down,” Ryks said.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is looking for ways to protect both deer and drivers on our roads.

Last November, MnDOT opened its deer crossing underpass on Highway 14 near Claremont. The underpass is a culvert that was already needed for the expansion project of Highway 14.

“You’ve got a passageway through. This way you don’t have to cross the highway, you can go underneath it. It works for humans, and we’re hopeful it will work for animals and larger animals like deer,” MnDOT spokesperson Mike Dougherty said.

While it’s clear animals are using the underpass, it’s too early to know its long-term impact.

“You can’t just throw a “We’re Open” sign and they’ll all follow through so this will be something that they monitor throughout the next few years,” Dougherty said.

The underpass is part of a statewide study looking at deer crashes across the entire state.

“Overtime, they’re going to look at traffic patterns, geography. Then, look at if there are ways we can reduce the number of deer-vehicle crashes,” Dougherty said.

While MnDOT officials aren’t sure if they’ll add more of these underpasses across the state, they’ll continue to monitor it and see if it’s worth replicating.

“There’s lot of different ways people are looking at how to save lives, save money, but also just make sure the highways can operate as they should,” Dougherty said.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources found that the deer in the area near the underpass typically migrate from the north to the south side of Highway 14 as the temperatures drop. As a reminder, MnDOT officials encourage drivers to stick to the speed limit and watch out for deer, especially during dawn and dusk in the countryside.