Work is continuing on a project to reduce the number of wildlife collisions in the Elk Valley.
Wildsight officials said crews completed work on two crossing locations this year, as part of phase one of Reconnecting the Rockies.
“Construction began in the summer of 2020 with the first of six phases initiated to create a system of wildlife crossings and fencing,” said staff. “The location for phase one was chosen in a stretch of highway that has the unenviable distinction for four of the eight worst locations for wildlife/vehicle collisions across the province.”
The project is a plan to create a system of wildlife crossing structures, such as overpasses and underpasses, along an 80-kilometre stretch of Highway 3 through the Elk Valley. The goal is to have 11 wildlife structures in place by 2025, with stretches of fencing connecting each one.
According to the organization, the project is already showing its effectiveness.
“Animals began to use the adapted underpasses even without fencing,” said Wildsight. “Wildlife cameras captured images that demonstrate the underpasses work and are used to cross the highway, evidence that wildlife is changing behaviour to cross at these safe points.”
Wildsight officials said the Elk Valley is an important wildlife corridor and with landscapes intersected by vehicle traffic, collisions are bound to occur.
“The Elk Valley acts as a bridge for animals between borders and mountain ranges, but that bridge is being blocked by heavily-used roads that cut access for wildlife trying to cross,” said Wildsight. “Every year, approximately 200 collisions with large mammals occur on a paltry 30-km stretch of Highway 3 between Hosmer, B.C. and the Alberta border.”
Before work started on the project, evidence showed that the situation was getting worse over time.
“With vehicle traffic continuing to increase on this busy corridor — traffic on the Elk Valley’s Highway 3 was up 24% over a 10-year period, with increasing use by transport trucks amplifying the lethal nature of this route — there was a clear need to make some big changes,” said Wildsight.
“Crossing structures and fencing are demonstrated to reduce human-wildlife collisions by over 80%, and over 95% for elk and deer, the main species involved in collisions in the Elk Valley.”
Wildsight, Yellowstone to Yukon, Miistakis Institute, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Liber Ero Fellowship Program are the organizations collaborating on the Reconnecting the Rockies project.