Keep Your Eyes Out For Wonderful Wildlife Crossings As You Hit The Highways For Vacation
As Americans make travel plans and get out on the highways, they face many tedious hours in the car. However, watching the native wildlife and spotting wildflowers along the way can be a memorable and enjoyable part of your vacation. If you love our wildlife, you’ll also love spotting structures built with them in mind: wildlife crossings.
Chances are you’ve spotted crossing before but didn’t realize it. They can appear like an ordinary overpass, except overgrown with plants – that’s part of the design. Wildlife crossings often have natural vegetation on them to encourage animals to use them instead of daring to enter the dangerous roads. That protects both you and the wildlife.
In addition to these over and underpasses, there are other structures to spot, geared for different animal species’ behavior. According to EcoWatch:
“Biologists believe each species’ preferences are based on their environment and how they evolved. For example, ungulates with antlers (deer, elk, moose) prefer open structures like an overpass. Smaller animals that are used to more cover are more comfortable in small crossings like a culvert. Eventually, mother animals teach their young to use them, passing along the intergenerational knowledge just like other behaviors.”
Where to spot wildlife crossings
One of the best spots to see wildlife crossings is on the Flathead Indian reservation in Montana along U.S. Highway 93. The ‘The People’s Way’ reconstruction project includes over 80 different structures along the route, protecting animals like badgers, elk, mountain lions, bobcats, and bears.
The underpass has likely saved the local bobcat population. According to the Puente Hills Habitat Preservation Authority, animals adapted quickly to use the tunnel.
“Just nine days after the grand opening celebration of the underpass, deer were photographed using the tunnel. Coyotes and deer appear to regularly use the underpass and bobcat have been detected using the tunnel as well.”
Wildlife bridges are coming to California to reduce animal-vehicle related collisions, keep wildlands connected, and retrofit transportation… https://t.co/NNReiJrMgf
— Hills For Everyone (@Hills4Everyone) July 5, 2019
Do animals use wildlife crossings?
The data backs up the need for wildlife crossings
A 2010 design competition to develop better wildlife crossings called ARC, Animal Road Crossings, resulted in lower cost, innovative designs. The project came up with groundbreaking, ecologically sustainable designs that incorporated recyclable, and reusable modular materials.
One of the winning designs was scheduled for construction in Colorado and was 30 to 35 percent cheaper than traditional overpass designs. Unfortunately, flooding events drained resources for the project in 2013.
The designs remain an effective permanent solution to allow wildlife to cross the nation’s highways. The government just has to allocate funds and prioritize their construction.
Nina-Marie Lister, the Director of the Ecological Design Lab at Ryerson University, commented on the ARC designs:
“These things work, and they solve the problem once and for all. So, if you built a network of these bridges that connect in the right places, you’ve solved the problem for good,” said Lister.
A 2008 study commissioned by the U.S. Congress called the Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Reduction Study found that collisions have increased markedly since 1990. (see video from Vox below)
Growing deer populations, as well as more vehicle traffic, makes for a dangerous, expensive, and sometimes deadly combination for humans. The annual total for collisions with large animals such as deer, elk, and moose reached approximately one million. In truth, the number is probably much higher since the total excluded accidents with less than 1,000 dollars in property damages.
While only 0.04 percent of these accidents resulted in death to humans, the accidents racked up over eight billion in damages every single year.
Featured image: Screenshot via YouTube