Building bridges for wildlife in Kootenay National Park

What’s the issue?

A moose emerging from a highway underpass.
A bull moose crosses under Highway 93 South through an underpass.

Collisions between vehicles and wildlife pose a serious risk for animals and motorists alike. Highway 93 South in Kootenay National Park is particularly dangerous; from 2003 to 2012, over 500 large mammals were killed. It is likely that many more collisions were unreported and the animals never found. Attempts to prevent collisions – such as adding impermeable fencing to keep animals off roads – fragments the landscape and disrupts wildlife movements. To ensure both highway safety and wildlife connectivity, neighbouring Banff National Park uses wildlife exclusion fencing in combination with overpasses and underpasses, enabling wildlife to safely move across the landscape. With traffic projected to increase, Kootenay proposed a multi-phase project modelled on the Banff experience to reduce collisions between wildlife and vehicles.

What’s our approach?

  • Determine the locations of collision hotspots along the Highway 93 South corridor.
  • Evaluate the feasibility of building additional wildlife underpasses and exclusion fencing.
  • Apply the lessons learned in phase one for locating wildlife gates – features in the fence that allow wildlife accidentally trapped on the highway side to get back to safety.
  • Develop a wildlife monitoring program; evaluate wildlife collision rates after fencing is constructed; determine effectiveness of underpasses.
  • Communicate the project’s goals and successes with visitors.

What’s been accomplished?

  • Installed a total of 15 km of fencing and nine wildlife underpasses.
  • Fitted 59 wildlife gates to fences; prevented all but two wildlife mortalities since construction was completed (June 2016 to March 2018).
  • Monitored nine wildlife underpasses with remote cameras; documented over 3,500 safe passages by deer, moose, wolves, bear and cougar.
  • Developed visitor engagement displays and promotional materials, including exhibits at a highway rest stop, at Science World in Vancouver, and through online videos and social media.