According to Wildsight, hundreds of animals die every year along Highway 3, and a new RoadWatchBC report is suggesting infrastructure changes can help lower animal and vehicle collisions.
According to the report, 240 dead large animals are removed from the highway every year in the Elk Valley. However, more animals could be dying from collisions without being reported.
“Based on recent research, we found that for every dead animal removed from the highway, one or two more are hit on the road, but manage to travel a short distance before dying,” said Tracy Lee of the Miistakis Institute, one of the authors of the report. “The real number of large animals dying along Highway 3 in the Elk Valley could be more than double the 240 recorded as roadkill every year.”
The recommendations from the study aim to make roadways safer for humans and nature.
“What we want is to separate people and wildlife on the highways, but we still want animals to be able to cross over those highways,” said Dr. Clayton Lamb, report author and researcher with the University of B.C. and University of Montana. “We can either get them over or under the highway. Under the roads can come in either an underpass or making existing bridges more appealing and useful to wildlife.”
Lamb added that there is a preferred, but more expensive option.
“The gold standard for getting animals across highways are large overpass structures. They’re a little more appealing to wildlife, they’re not as closed in, and I think they feel safer on them,” explained Lamb. “There is an economic downside, overpasses are a lot more expensive, they can be around $5 million.”
Lamb went on to add that while it is a large investment, the potential safety a wildlife overpass can provide to animals and drivers is worth the cost.
Wildlife over and underpasses have been implemented around the world, including Banff. Parks Canada said highway fencing and wildlife corridors have reduced wildlife-vehicle collisions by more than 80% in Banff National Park.
According to Wildsight, the new bridge over Lizard Creek near Fernie will incorporate a nature connectivity underpass.
Researchers on the project identified 25 areas for potential wildlife infrastructure and later narrowed it down to a list of 10 top priority areas along Highway 3.
“We looked at the risk to a collision in general, how feasible mitigation was, what the conservation importance on a broader scale could be, and then land procurement,” Lamb explained to MyEastKootenayNow.com. “We kind of balanced the economic and the viability and the conservation all together to give the Ministry a top 10 they should pursue at the moment that will have the greatest impact.”
MORE: Highway 3Transportation Mitigation for Wildlife and Connectivity in Elk Valley of British Columbia (Lee et. al., October 2019)