FARMINGTON -- The number of raccoons killed by cars along Legacy Parkway has decreased dramatically since the road opened, and officials believe the trend will continue.
Shortly after the parkway opened in September 2008, motorists noticed an unusual number of animals, most of them raccoons, lying dead on the side of the roadway.
The 12-mile, four-lane freeway was built near wetlands in western Davis County and was controversial during the building process.
The project was challenged in court several times before a compromise was reached between the state and several environmental groups.
The area is home to numerous species of wildlife and although raccoons aren't native to the area, they thrived there until the road essentially bisected what had been the raccoons' established migration route.
But now, both UDOT and wildlife officials say the raccoon population is thinning, which means fewer of them dead along the side of the road.
"The number of animals being hit on Legacy Parkway has decreased dramatically since the road first opened," said UDOT Region One spokesman Vic Saunders.
"Obviously we don't have any expertise in that area because we are not a wildlife organization, so we can't definitively say why that is, but the number is way down."
Rich Hansen, manager of the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area, agreed with Saunders, saying the raccoon population in the area has dwindled noticeably.
"We have definitely seen a decrease in the number of raccoons since Legacy opened," he said.
Hansen said it's not likely that the raccoons in the area enhanced their car-dodging skills, but have simply died out from being hit.
"I would hypothesize that the raccoons that were out here, making those movements across the highway, have been killed off and are no longer reproducing," he said. "That seems like the likely scenario."
Hansen's employees trap hundreds of raccoons each year as a form of predator control to protect the area's bird population.
Hundreds of thousands of waterbirds, songbirds and raptors visit Farmington Bay during the migration and nesting seasons.
More than 200 different species have been documented within the management area.
Hansen said as the raccoon population has decreased, the bird population has done just the opposite.
"With (raccoons) decreasing, we are seeing an increase in the (bird) population," he said. "And that's a good thing for us."