97A Fence

Project: 97A Fence

Project Description: 

This project is a safety enhancement wildlife fence project that is funded by several interested agencies both public and private.  This project includes work adjacent to 8.95 miles of US 97A from  Rocky  Reach  Dam to  Spencer Canyon.  By installing the fence along this high deer kill section below the Swakane Wildlife Area, it is anticipated that a  50%  reduction in total vehicle-wildlife collisions for the entire 40-mile corridor can be achieved .

Project Purpose:

This corridor has one of the highest mule deer and big horn sheep mortality rates in Washington.  As many as 160 deer are reported killed along the highway during a severe winter between Wenatchee and Chelan.

Project Facts:

  • Over 500 deer/sheep carcasses removed over the last 10 years
  • Project has constructed approximately nine miles of wildlife fence in two stages:
    • In 2009, stage 1 built 4.45 miles of fence from Tenas George Canyon to just North of Spencer Canyon.
    • In 2010, an extension of stage 1 built 1 mile of fence from Tenas George Canyon towards Rocky Reach Dam.
    • In 2011, stage 2 built 3.5 miles of fence from the end of the stage 1 extension to below Rocky Reach Dam.
  • Steel fence design will be 8-foot tall,  with a 20+ year design life

Financial Information:

The fence was built with funding from the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as private donors.

Private  Project Donors:   

  • Wenatchee Sportsmen’s Association ($ 10,000)
  • Seattle Sportsmen Conservation Foundation ($ 10,000)
  • Washington State, Foundation for North American Wild Sheep    .   ($ 10,000)
  • Mt. Vernon Mule Deer Foundation ($ 2,132)
  • Central Washington Mule Deer Foundation ($1,036)
  • Woodinville Mule Deer Foundation ($ 1,032)
  • Washington State Bow Hunters ($1,000)
  • State Farm Insurance ($ 5,000)  

Frequently Asked Questions

For more information on the  97A Wildlife Fence,  please call  WDFW  at (509) 662-0452 

  1. Will the fence disrupt Mule deer migration patterns ?
     - No:   Deer migrate down in elevation in response to snow depth to find forage and  browse,  and the fence will not impact this as there is very little habitat being blocked off by the fence.
    - The Columbia River has always been a barrier to deer migration.
  2. Will the fence block Mule deer and Bighorn sheep from food ?
    - No:  Development has already eliminated most foraging in the    foothills above the highway.  
    - Mule deer and bighorn sheep are adapted to nutritional stress in the winter and are able to survive on existing habitat.
    - Some mule deer and bighorn sheep feed on ornamental landscaping in the highway corridor,  but this is not a critical food source. 
  3. Are the Mule deer and Bighorn sheep crossing the road to access the river and will the fence block them from water ?
    - No:   Mule deer and bighorn sheep are  not  using the Columbia River for their sole source of water.  If they were water stressed,  we would see collisions during the summer,  not during the winter.
    - Most collisions occur during winter and early spring, when there is plenty of water available from the rain and snow.
    - These animals are adapted to arid climates and survive in areas with little water.
    - They get much of their water from vegetation (water within the plant) and dew (during morning forage).
    - Both these animals will eat snow for moisture.
    - There are numerous guzzlers (man made water collection devices),  in the foothills above where the fence will be placed that provide a source of drinking water.
    - Mule deer can live up to  2 miles from permanent water sources.
    - Surveys show thousands of deer in the foothills above the fence,  and we do not see thousands of deer crossing the highway to drink.  
  4. Are the Mule deer and Bighorn sheep coming to the road to lick salt/minerals ?
    - Unknown:   Both species have been observed licking roadways and eating dirt near the highway.  
    - Salt or minerals near the highway may be present naturally or from road maintenance activities,  but it is doubtful they need these to survive. 
    - There are natural salt and mineral deposits that exist in the foothills above the fence for them to use, additionally,  WDFW  can place salt/mineral licks if necessary.  
  5. Will wildlife get trapped on the other side of the fence ?
    - No:   If an animal finds itself on the highway,  there will be many escape doors within the fence that allow passage formt he highway,  but not to it. Wildlife are very good at finding  “weak”  points in a fence. 
    -  In the  event that a large herd of mule deer or bighorn sheep find themselves on the highway side of the fence,  WDFW  will coordinate with  State Patrol to safely herd the critters back to the other side of the fence. 
  6. Will Mule deer and Bighorn sheep just go around the ends of the fence to get to the road ?
    -  Doubtful:   The fence will be engineered into cliffs that already prevent wildlife movement.  
    - Mule deer and bighorn sheep are habitual animals that rarely leave their home ranges,  and  would not likely travel miles to get around a fence.

Status: Project completed in 2011.