Study shows high-risk highways for wildlife collisions


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    MISSOULA, Mont. - Montana ranks No. 2 in the nation in the risk that a driver will hit a deer, according to State Farm Insurance. Each year in the United States, more than 200 people are killed as a result of car accidents involving wildlife.

    A study by the Center for Large Landscape Conservation shows the top 10 stretches of Montana highway you're most likely to hit an animal on. They're called high-risk zones.

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    One high-risk zone in Flathead County on Highway 93, on the northwest side of Flathead Lake, is deemed the most dangerous of all in the state.

    Now wildlife organizations are advocating for solutions. They say investing in wildlife overpasses and underpasses or even fencing could save drivers money in the long run.

    NBC Montana went to an auto body shop to get their take.

    Russ Kamura and his brother own Russ's Body and Paint. The shop was passed down to them from their father, who opened it in the '40s. They say they see cars that have either hit or been hit by deer just about every day.

    "It's a year-round thing, nonstop deer hits," said Kamura. "I feel bad for the deer."

    Kamura said he's seen the increase in the last few years. Of about 60 cars sitting in his shop, he says about 25 percent of them are there because of a run-in with a deer.

    State Farm estimates a driver hits a deer in Montana about 13,300 times a year. They say the average cost of repairs is about $4,000. If you multiply the two, it means Montanans spend on average about $53.2 million a year on crashes involving deer.

    More wildlife crossings like the ones installed on the stretch of Highway 93 between Evaro Hill and Polson are meant to help cut down motor vehicle-animal collisions.

    A cost analysis study by the Montana Department of Transportation says overpasses like the Evaro Hill one can cost anywhere from $1 million to $2 million. Underpasses can cost about the same, depending on where they're built.

    Right now there are about 70 underpasses running beneath 93 between Evaro Hill and Polson.

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