10 quick facts about highway wildlife crossings in the park
In response to growing traffic volume, concerns about motorist safety and highway-related wildlife mortality, the 82 km section of the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park began to be upgraded from two lanes to a four lane divided highway in 1981.
Having reached completion in January 2014, there are now 38 wildlife underpasses and six overpasses from Banff National Park’s east entrance to the border of Yoho National Park. There is also one underpass in Yoho National Park.
Highway fencing in Banff National Park has reduced wildlife-vehicle collisions by more than 80% and, for elk and deer alone by more than 96%.
Wildlife crossings are designed to connect vital habitats and allow safe movement of animals across busy roads.
Banff National Park has the most numerous and varied wildlife crossing structures in the world. It also supports the world’s longest, year-round monitoring program and largest data set on wildlife mitigation.
In 2012, eleven species of large mammals have been recorded using wildlife crossings more than 150,000 times since 1996. This includes grizzly and black bears, wolves, coyotes, cougars, moose, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and more recently wolverine and lynx.
There is a "learning curve" for animals to begin using wildlife crossings after construction. For wary animals like grizzly bears and wolves, it may take up to five years before they feel secure using newly built crossings. Elk were the first large species to use the crossings, even using some while they were under construction!
Research has shown that grizzly bears, elk, moose and deer prefer wildlife crossings that are high, wide and short in length, including overpasses. Black bears and cougars seem to prefer long, low and narrow crossings.
DNA-based research is exploring how crossing benefit species such as bears and wolverine. DNA hair samples are collected using barbed wire strung at crossings or at strategically placed “hair-snagging sites” on the broader landscape.
Parks Canada is a world leader in the use of innovative highway wildlife mitigations based on sound science and collaboration with leading experts and organizations in the field of road ecology.