Montana State University

MSU student researcher tracks wildlife on U.S. Highway 93

July 9, 2004 -- From MSU News Service


Montana State University graduate student Whisper Maillet maintains sand beds along U.S. Highway 93 to track the number and species of animals that cross the highway. (Photo by Marcel Huijser.)   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
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Bozeman--Whisper Maillet is spending her summer in sand. The 27-year-old Montana State University graduate student documents wildlife tracks through sand beds along U.S. Highway 93 through the Flathead Indian Reservation.

Maillet, a Pend O'reille Indian and member of the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes, grew up in Kevin and graduated from North Toole County High in 1995. She is conducting research as part of a fellowship for tribal members offered through the MSU-based Western Transportation Institute and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

She is researching landscape characteristics that may influence where deer choose to cross U.S. 93.

"The goal is to record animals by species as they cross at random areas," said Maillet, who commutes to her research plots from homes in Bozeman and Missoula. "Soon, I will be recording site characteristics that will relate to deer and their selection of specific crossing areas."

The study sites were determined from Montana Department of Transportation road-kill data from 1999-02. On her daily sand-bed inspections, she finds dead animals such as skunks, deer, bear, birds and rattlesnakes.

"I feel that it is important to make the highway safer for drivers," she said, noting that several agencies are involved in the ultimate goal of reconstructing U.S. 93 that will include wildlife crossings -- one overpass and numerous underpasses. "It is also important to improve for wildlife the connectivity of the land bisected by the highway."

Maillet is working on a master's degree in Fish and Wildlife management.

Contact Whisper Maillet (406) 370-6050 or whisperm@montana.edu or Kate Heidkamp (406) 994-7018.