wounded animals probably
went back into the woods, never to be found. Most of
the fatalities were elk and deer, but other species
such as bears, lynx, and frogs were victims as well.
All would have been attempting to move through what
are called “wildlife corridors,” routes
within their natural habitats that allow animals to
roam freely in search of food, mates, and denning sites.
To deal with the problem, Banff embarked in 1985 on
a 20-year project to build fences along – as well
as a series of tunnels under – the Trans Canada
to allow both traffic and wildlife to continue to travel
through the park without getting in each other’s
way. In the initial phase of the project, wardens monitored
wildlife movement to see if the tunnels helped. They
discovered a remarkable fact: while elk and deer took
to the tunnels quite quickly, some species, notably
bears and wolves, didn't like to go under the road.
(“They seem to like the sky above them,”
Tom Hurd, a wildlife
biologist at Banff, speculates.)
Consequently, 50-metre-wide, naturally vegetated overpasses
– the first of their kind in the world –
were added to the highway wildlife protection project.
Banff now has 25 wildlife passageways (both over and
under the highway), one every two kilometres. And since
1997 over 50,000 crossings by virtually every major
species found in the park have been recorded. As impressive
as these numbers are, they don’t speak as loudly
of the success of the program as does the drop in animal
fatalities – these have been reduced by 85 percent.
Ian Syme explains that this project has been so successful,
he and other Banff National Park staff have been involved
in making recommendations for wildlife protection along
other stretches of the 7,500 km of the Trans Canada
Highway. And international recognition has brought experts
from other countries to Canada to study the Banff model,
an exemplary program meant to keep natural habitats
as intact as possible in our increasingly crowded world.
||At one time, over 100
animals a year were struck by vehicles in Banff. Passages
over and under roadways have reduced this by 85 percent.
|Image © Parks
Photograph by W. Lynch