Did you know that nearly $8 Billion in damages are incurred every year due to animals being struck by vehicles? This is a sobering statistic, not simply because of the monetary cost of these collisions to humans, but because of its saddening implications for the damages being done to individual animal lives as well as the ecosystems surrounding major highways as a while.
Canada has decided to do something about this widespread problem by creating 44 animal overpasses and similar structures around highways. Ananimal overpass is essentially a structure that goes completely over thedangerous highway and acts as a nature-imitating bridge to the other side. These overpasses are not mere concrete establishments, they are cultivated with vegetation that matches the immediate environment and native trees so that the spaces created are ones the animals are accustomed to inhabiting.
“This is really a remarkable effort,” said Patricia Garvey-Darda, a biologist with the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. “The goal is to connect all the species and all the habitat.” Jen Watkins, A Conservation Associate withConservation Northwest goes on to describe the numerous ways highways disruptthe natural order of the environments in which they are placed. Without human interference, animals will roam larger areas in search of food or new dwellings to live in temporarily or even long term. Reasons for animals shiftingto different areas can range from safety, to food, or other factors. When animals are faced with the unnatural andhigh energy structure of a superhighway, they are faced with decisions theirbiology doesn’t equip them for, leading to many tragic and unnecessary animaldeaths and on a larger scale, damage and disruption to the communities as awhole.
This solution has been sopowerfully effective in Canada with even a recent study finding solid evidencethat the overhangs are working, that many US states are embarking on similarprojects. Washington State is creatingits first wildlife crossing project in the form of a 150-foot wide bridge thatis filled with trees and vegetation.
Watkins goes on to explain thatthe overhands are a monumental step forward in conservation efforts related tohighway wildlife challenges, but they aren’t the only strategy in place. Other projects and programs aimed at protecting wildlife and fostering natural development of ecosystems in highway areas include those aimed at creating safe passage areas underneath the highways as well. In these types of projects, areas are created that willfoster and support the crossing back and forth of larger and predatory animalslike wolves and bears while also providing safe havens for smaller creaturesand aquatic ones.
This amazing concept is already fullyfunctioning throughout Canada and its well-needed and useful design seems to bespreading into the American landscape as well.