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Insider Insights: Articles

Protecting wildlife and motorists at the same time


By Audree-Jade Alain
Beat the Traffic
@Audree_BTT
Wednesday, February 19, 2014, 10:02 AM

Canada is the second largest country in the world, and Canadians will travel a long distance to get to their destination. Canadian cities are quite spread out, so to facilitate travel, the Trans-Canada Highway was created in the 1960’s to allow motorist a way to cross the entire country from the East coast to the West coast. According to Employment and Social Development Canada in 2011, about 81% of Canadians lived in urban areas. The rest of the county has a much lower population density, so many of the main highways run through undeveloped or heavily forested areas. As a result, many parts of the Trans Canada Highway can be quite dangerous due to animals crossing as they migrate through the country or region. The Federal and Provincial governments have found a solution to allow motorist and animals safely share the same space; they created migratory structures for animals.


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Animal bridges, or “critter crossings” were created to provide a means for large animals like dear, moose, and bears to cross highways while keeping motorists safe. You can find these beautiful structures near Sudbury, Ontario on Highway 69. As the Ontario government said, “The concept of the project is to maintain animal movements without impacting traffic. Fencing along the highway right-of-way on both sides is intended to funnel animals to a bridge crossing.” What is unique about this bridge is its natural landscaping, which uses indigenous trees, brush, rock piles, and grass to provide a natural migration path for local wildlife.

Highway 89 near Sudbury (Image taken from Sudbury Star)

Highway 89 near Sudbury (Image taken from Sudbury Star)

Culvert crossings and barriers have also been put in place to allow large and small animals to migrate safely. In 2009, a culvert was installed in Caledon under Highway 10 to protect turtles. This area of Ontario has a lot of turtles migrating during their reproduction cycle. A long fence was used on both sides of the culvert to funnel animals as well. But what is interesting and something you probably didn’t know, is that “Studies have shown that turtles can climb fences. Anti-glare mesh/screen is used as a turtle barrier/fence to restrict turtle movement onto the roadway.” (Road talk, 2010)

Turtle crossing with fence in Ontario (Image from: http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/transtek/roadtalk/rt16-4/)

Turtle crossing with fence in Ontario (Image from: http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/transtek/roadtalk/rt16-4/)

In the Banff National Park in Alberta, there are 24 animal crossings. As animals have slowly learned to use them, there has been a significant reduction in the number of animal collisions in the park. One study suggests the combined use of critter crossings and fencing reduced incidents by more than 80 percent.

Banff Critter crossing (Image taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Trans-Canada-wildlife_overpass.JPG)

Banff Critter crossing (Image taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Trans-Canada-wildlife_overpass.JPG)

(Image taken from: http://www.ucalgary.ca/news/utoday/april4-2012/highway)

(Image taken from: http://www.ucalgary.ca/news/utoday/april4-2012/highway)

Critter crossing were first used in France in the 1950’s. Since then, it is clear that critter crossings are an important and successful safety initiative in Canada. Australia, the United States, Netherlands, and also Germany are following in the footsteps of France, to the benefit of not only animals, but humans as well.

Reference:

Clevenger, A. P.; Chruszcz, B.; Gunson, K. E. (2001). "Highway mitigation fencing reduces wildlife-vehicle collisions". Wildlife Society Bulletin 29: 646–653.

Clevenger, T. (2007). "Highways through habitats: The Banff Wildlife Crossings Project". Transportation Research News 249: 14–17. Retrieved 18 July 2012.

Employment and Social Development Canada, 2014, Indicators of Well-being in Canada; Canadians in Context - Geographic Distribution. Retrieved from http://www4.hrsdc.gc.ca/.3ndic.1t.4r@-eng.jsp?iid=34

Road Talk, 2010. “Ontario's Transportation Technology Transfer Digest”. Ontario Ministry of Transportation. 16. 4. Retrieved from http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/transtek/roadtalk/rt16-4/

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