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Idaho Experts Look To Canada For Ways To Stop Wildlife/Vehicle Collisions

Chris Pawluk
Animal overpass near Banff.

Animal-car collisions are a real problem in Idaho. In one short section of Idaho 21 near Boise, 77 deer and elk were hit by cars in 2016. The Idaho Transportation Department will discuss the issue Wednesday and take a cue from how Banff National Park in Canada solved its wildlife mortality problem.

Over the last 30 years, the Trans-Canada Highway through Banff National Park has expanded and traffic has increased. In the 1980’s, there was a significant number of elk killed on the highway.

For three decades, Terry McGuire worked for Parks Canada. He came up with a two-part solution. First, they fenced the 51-mile long road. That reduced the wildlife mortality by 80 percent. But it kept animals from moving freely. So next they built some familiar underpasses, and some less well-known animal overpasses. McGuire says these are large arches that span the highway.

“Covered in soil and have vegetation growing on them, so these structures have taken on very similar characteristics and feel of the forest that is on either side of them,” says McGuire.

Some of the arches are 200 feet wide, which wildlife find more inviting. Elk and deer started using the overpasses immediately. Grizzly bears and cougars took a few years to get the hang of them.

Since the mid 90s, McGuire has documented almost a quarter million highway crossings of animals in the park. He’ll explain Banff’s program to a group of more than 70 ITD engineers in Wednesday’s seminar.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

Copyright 2017 Boise State Public Radio

As Senior Producer of our live daily talk show Idaho Matters, I’m able to indulge my love of storytelling and share all kinds of information (I was probably a Town Crier in a past life!). My career has allowed me to learn something new everyday and to share that knowledge with all my friends on the radio.