With another four bighorn sheep killed by highway traffic near Radium Hot Springs last week, local groups emphasized the importance of building a wildlife overpass.
According to Wildsight, the One Mile Hill area leading into Radium Hot Springs has long been known to be a dangerous place for drivers and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. The organization noted that 13 animals died on the highways near the community throughout 2021.
“It’s record-high numbers that are getting killed. We’re seeing a very alarming rate for the herd,” said Nicole Trigg, spokesperson for Help the Radium Bighorn Herd. “In order to feed, we’re finding that they’re on the slopes around Radium and on the road much more.”
Trigg explained that the animals’ usual grazing territory is difficult, as the grass is buried under deep snow, which is topped with a layer of ice.
Salt brine applied to highways to keep them free of ice also works to attract sheep that come to lick the minerals off.
While the highway coming into Radium has plenty of signs and notices for drivers to be careful, biologists along with Radium Mayor Clara Reinhardt and local groups such as Wildsight and Help the Radium Bighorn Herd are calling for a more substantial fix.
“The real solution, as identified by the Ministry of Transportation and the biologists from the province is an overpass for the sheep to safely cross back and forth across Highway 93/95,” said Reinhardt.
Reinhardt noted that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) has been working closely with Radium Hot Springs to secure the funds to put in an overpass.
According to Reinhardt, the overpass would cost an estimated $4-million, and would help keep animals and people safe while maintaining traffic flow.
“We’re talking about an overpass just south of Radium Hot Springs, which is where all four sheep were killed last week and where a number were killed in November and December. That seems to be the most frequent location,” said Trigg. “In fact, where they’re all getting hit is the approximate location for the planned overpass.”
While money has been set aside for the project, it is not quite enough to cover the full cost of the project.
“Within the community, we are looking into some fundraising. So you’ll be able to donate directly to the village specifically for the fencing and the overpass,” said Reinhardt. “The government has indicated to us that they wouldn’t say no to that. We’re looking at that and we’re looking at some grants. The whole idea is that the sooner we get the money together, the sooner the overpass could be built.”
Trigg said she and other concerned residents are launching a public awareness campaign in partnership with local businesses to help out in the meantime.
“We want to do everything we can to stop the sheep from getting hit by traffic. If it takes a year or two and the sheep keep getting killed at this rate, there’s not going to be sheep left for this overpass,” said Trigg.
She noted that this has been a long-time issue for the community, citing an article published in the ’80s that discussed the problem.
More: Radium Hot Springs