Puget Sound Energy workers were driving on a central Washington highway last week when they came upon a remarkable and unmissable sight: Hundreds and hundreds of elk were migrating across the roadway.
The energy company crew stopped their vehicle and sat tight as the elk streamed across Interstate 90 as part of their yearly migration, Gray News reports.
“It’s not often you see hundreds of elk running across a road!” the company said in a Facebook post. “This herd of elk was spotted at our Wild Horse Wind and Solar facility last week.”
Puget Sound Energy posted the video to Facebook Tuesday, and it’s since been viewed more than 130,000 times.
“What a sight!” one commenter wrote. “Really beautiful and awe-inspiring!”
Others wanted to do more than just watch the elk.
“Would love to hunt that group!!!” another commenter said.
There are two kinds of elk found in the state, but the migrating animals crossing the highway 15 miles from Ellensburg last week were likely Rocky Mountain elk, because the state’s Roosevelt elk usually stick to the Olympic Peninsula, Patch reports.
Washington State Police said Interstate 90, which runs through Ellensburg, is the artery most impacted by the migrating animals, which numbered more than 1,000, KHQ reports.
State troopers are trying to prevent the elk from loitering in the middle of traffic — a task complicated by the fact that some are grazing in the median, according to KHQ.
“While Troopers work on solutions to keep the elk off the roadway, they ask drivers to slow down in the area between Ellensburg and Vantage and increase following distance in case the vehicle in front of you needs to take evasive action to avoid the animals,” the TV station wrote.
Washington is currently working on projects designed to make it easier for wildlife to get over or under highways without having to tangle with drivers in encounters that can be as life-threatening to humans as to animals. One of the projects is on Interstate 90 near Snoqualmie Pass, where arches over the roadway are transforming the highway into a tunnel that allows animals to cross right over it, the Spokesman-Review reports.
“You have a really limited bottleneck for wildlife to move from the north to south Cascades,” explained Jen Watkins, Conservation Northwest’s I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition coordinator, according to the Spokesman-Review.
The $6.2 million bridge — roughly as wide as a basketball court — was designed to benefit bears, elk and possibly even mountain goats, the Seattle Times reported last year as the project approached the end stages.
Other areas in the state feature underpasses for wildlife, the Spokesman-Review reports.
Banff National Park in Canada has a similar system of overpasses — accompanied by tunnels and fences as well — that have guided more than 150,000 animals across the Trans-Canada Highway for the last 20 years, according to the Calgary Herald.