Two weeks ago I wrote about my Rockies Roadtrip. One thing that really caught my eye was the wildlife fencing and crossing in Banff. I couldn’t help thinking as I drove past kilometer after kilometre of fencing “How much did this cost? And is it that effective?” So I did a little investigative work.
Twinning of Highway 1 through Banff has been going on for years, and once it’s complete, in 2014, there will be 38 wildlife underpasses (at a cost of $1 million each) and six overpasses ($6 million each).
The crossings in Banff National Park include two wide overpasses covered in vegetation that helps them resemble the surrounding habitat. Each one is carefully designed to accommodate the preferences of the animals. Grizzly bears, elk, moose and deer prefer wildlife crossings that are high, wide and short, for example, while black bears and cougars prefer long, low and narrow crossings.
Between 1996 and 2012, 11 species of large mammals have been recorded using the crossings more than 143,000 times. In that same time, vehicle-wildlife collisions have been reduced overall more than 80 per cent and 96 per cent for elk and deer. It helps that fencing has also been installed along the highway, encouraging animals to find and use the crossings.
There is some criticism that channeling so much wildlife into a few bridges and tunnels is like making a trap for the animals, granting predators an easy meal on either side, but research has shown that this is not the case. There are no more killings around the crossings than there are anywhere else in the park.