Wildlife Wednesdays: Wildlife Bridges | weatherology°
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By: Meteorologist Megan Mulford
Updated: Nov 13th 2019

Wildlife Wednesdays: Wildlife Bridges

More than a million vehicle collisions occur each year with an average of 200 people dying from their injuries in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The costs of these crashes can add up too. Deer-car collisions cost an average of $8,190, elk-vehicle collisions around $25,300, and moose-vehicle collisions up to $45,000! The number of deadly accidents with wildlife is growing as well. Over the past 15 years, wildlife and vehicle collisions have increased by 50 percent, with around 1-2 million large animals killed by motorists every year, according to Rob Ament, road ecology program manager at Western Transportation Institute. In the United States alone, around 21 threatened and endangered species are at risk from vehicle and animal collisions. There is one solution that has been effective around the world in decreasing collisions between vehicles and wildlife: underpasses/overpasses designed specifically for wildlife. 

These have been pretty popular in Europe since the 1950's, with the first one being built in France. They look like regular overpasses, but ones designed for wildlife have plants and trees along it, with the underpasses not even noticeable to most drivers! Underpasses in Brazil have helped animals such as gold monkeys and pumas, to water voles in London. They are even working on one in Asia to help Asian elephants cross safely! Studies looked at one in Florida to help with their native species, one in Australia for bandicoots and wallabies, and one in Mexico for jaguars. The results showed that wildlife crossings saved money and the lives of humans and animals. Ament goes on to say that "you can get reductions of 85 to 90 perfect with crossings and fencing that guide animals under and over highways." Another study looked at a wildlife crossing in Banff, over the Trans-Canada Highway. The study showed that in just a two mile stretch, crashes were reduced from an average of 12 a year to 2.5, reducing costs of crashes by 90 percent! They have 6 overpasses and 38 underpasses, which they have been monitoring for more than 17 years. 

A wildlife bridge, east of the Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascades, that was constructed in 2015 is to be completed around Fall of 2020. Deer and coyotes have been seen already using it! Along with 6 underpasses built since 2013, these crossings are the first in a set of 20 to be built along a 15 mile stretch of highway I-90. These crossings will save the lives of elk, black bears, mountain lions, and pika, as well as people in vehicles. As these bridges and underpasses become more popular, it is hopeful that more will start popping up around the United States. 

Wildlife bridge over I-90 in Washington. Source: Smithsonian.com
Wildlife underpass in Florida. Source: Wikipedia
Wildlife overpass in Banff National Park, Canada. Source: Wikipedia