SNOQUALMIEPASS, Wash. -- Interstate-90 is a priceless east-west conduit in Washington state. But for wildlife, it is a dike blocking the flow of migrating animals on both sides.

Research by the Western Transportation Institute and Montana State University, shows DNA collected from black bears on one side on I-90 differs from that collected from black bears on other. It indicates the freeway interrupts travel and mating habits.

So that group and others, including Conservation Northwest and the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition, helped convince the Washington State Department of Transportation to include wildlife corridors in it's designs for improving I-90.

The result is two new, huge bridges east of Snoqualmie Pass. The bridges replace a cramped bridge where Gold Creek runs under the freeway. Remote motion detection cameras show wildlife used that smaller passageway in a very limited manner. The new bridges provide more than 1,000 feet of space for the animals to safely pass under the freeway. The discovery last week of coyote tracks under part of the unfinished project are a strong indication, say the groups, that the project is working.

Thursday, scientists waded through the knee-deep snow to see more tracks. This time they were from a snowshoe hare that passed underneath.

It's too early to call the project a wild success, but supporters say the tracks are a good start to the re-establishment of an ancient wildlife corridor.

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