Wildlife Overpass – Banff, Alberta

banff-wildlife-overpass.jpg

I took this snapshot of a wildlife overpass in Banff National Park a few summers ago. When this section of the Trans-Canada Highway was twinned in the nineties, two of these bridge structures and various underpasses were installed at strategic locations in the park, providing safe passage to wildlife and hopefully minimizing the impact of increased traffic volume. Wildlife underpasses were first used in Banff during the eighties and similar overpass structures exist on European highways, but I believe this design was the first Canadian application – hopefully many more will follow.

To better understand how wildlife use the passages and possibly improve their design, scientist utilize surveillance cameras and other equipment to monitor every animal passing through the structures. According to this data, increasing numbers of deer, cougars, bears and other wildlife are using these crossings. After they were installed, roadside mortality dropped by more than 80 percent. Based on this success rate, the design is now being extended through Lake Louise as well.

I’m not sure if the tracking data reveals any particular animal design preferences (for overpasses or underpasses), but from a human perspective there’s something to be said for high visibility. Overpasses like this one are great looking reminders that in the park we’re the visitors and with a little effort we can learn to be gracious guests.

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