‘We need more of these’
You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen … but otherwise it’s probably hard to recall a more satisfying scene of nine deer-family members in snow than the one of an elk gang running free on a wildlife overpass in Washington state — without a car or sleigh in sight.
The wintry scene was recorded on critter cams, set to dramatic orchestral music, and posted to TikTok in October by the Washington State DOT (@washingtonstatedot).
“Today seems like a good day to watch some elk frolicking on a wildlife overcrossing over I-90,” the department of transportation captioned the video.
@washingtonstatedot Today seems like a good day to watch some elk frolicking on a wildlife overcrossing over I-90. #wsdot #wildlifecrossing #elk #animalsplaying #i90 ♬ Inspiration (Orchestral) – The Young Ebenezers
The scene opens to a snow-dusted field atop the bridge over Interstate 90. Boulders and logs strewn about intentionally create cover and a natural feel.
Two elk are visible, and five more trot in from the corners. The music crescendos as the elk chase each other in playful loops around the debris piles.
A large buck enters lower-left, stopping to pose with a regal turn of his antlered head. One more elk pauses and looks toward the camera before following the others.
The film ends with the elk returning at a run, the buck bringing up the rear.
Only somewhat noticeable are the concrete walls that line the corridor. These keep out the sight of tens of thousands of vehicles passing daily along this major thoroughfare.
Photos from other angles show the surroundings and size of this bridge for elk, deer, coyotes, and other wildlife, per the website Scenic Washington.
The DOT reports more than 20,000 real-life animal crossings for its ongoing highway project, which also includes underpasses nearby. The department completed the bridge in 2018 — as a local King 5 news report and an award-winning documentary detail — with help from the Forest Service and various nonprofits.
Wildlife passages like Washington’s, and others in Utah and Canada’s Banff National Park offer success stories of people reducing dangers to wildlife (and drivers) while reopening natural migration routes.
Safe passages are particularly significant now, as Pew Charitable Trusts notes, because animals’ ranges and habitats must be flexible in a warming world.
Luckily, the film-star elk didn’t need to worry about planet warming or much of anything as they scampered over the overpass.
“We need more of these crossings!” said a TikToker in the comments.
“Kudos for investing in protecting wildlife, and for the trail cam, and for this post, and for the talented person who chose the background music,” said another.
Others praised the DOT’s social media chops: “I’ve said it once before, I’ll say it again — unironically my favorite tik tok account.”
One more concluded: “Every day is a good day to watch elk frolic.”
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