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Animal rights advocates are asking state transportation officials to reconsider their denial of a roadside memorial for 700 turkeys that died in a crash last month in Deer Creek Reservoir.

The proposed sign "does not meet the policy standards for roadside memorial signs," state Department of Transportation officer TeriAnne Newell wrote in a letter last week to Amy Meyer, a Salt Lake City resident who requested the sign on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PETA renewed its request Tuesday, stressing that the turkeys developed "strong bonds and feel pain just as we do."

"These individuals ... are as deserving of our empathy as are human crash victims," Meyer wrote.

UDOT spokesman John Gleason pointed to language in state guidelines designating roadside memorial signs "only for fatal crashes and by written agreement between [UDOT] and the family."

"Roadside memorial criteria is very specific," Gleason said. "It would not cover animals."

PETA had modeled a sign after templates from the state's official Memorial Safety Sign Program to place at the reservoir, honoring "the hundreds of terrified turkeys who died here in a truck crash."

About 700 turkeys were on board a semitrailer truck that went over a guardrail on U.S. Highway 189 on April 24. Many of the turkeys died; some escaped their crates and made their way to shore, and others were trapped but alive in the water.

The drafted sign urges viewers to "try vegan" and displays an image of a turkey. The tribute is placed below a sign reminding drivers to "drive safely; buckle up."

In her appeal Tuesday, Meyer asked Newell to consider allowing the memorial "in the absence of available family members of the victims."

"If, anything, the sign would make it so all drivers are more cautious and lead to safer roads," Meyer said in an interview.

The proposed sign is not PETA's first effort to create roadside memorials for livestock killed in transit. Similar requests were denied for crash sites in Georgia, Illinois and Virginia. The only PETA-sponsored memorial stands where a cattle transport crashed in 2013 near Madison, Wis., where no policy restricts or permits such monuments.

PETA also has requests pending to place tombstone-style markers for turkeys that died in a crash in Iowa and cows that died in a crash in Albany, N.Y.

Twitter: @erinalberty —

Clean-up still underway

Divers on Tuesday began searching the depths of Deer Creek Reservoir and recovered the bodies of 30 turkeys, said Wasatch County Health Department spokesman Chris Smoot.

The birds are floating as far as 20 feet below the surface, where visibility is limited, Smoot said; divers estimated about 50 turkeys may remain in the water.

Dive crews hoped to finish removing birds and crash debris by the end of the week, Smoot said, but storms may hamper progress.

Water downstream from the reservoir was being tested for biological hazards, such as e. coli, and for petroleum contamination, Smoot said. All tests have come back negative so far.

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