VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

Dave Cipollone knows the dangers wild animals can pose to drivers on the Trans-Canada or other highways in and near Banff National Park.

The 42-year-old paramedic and firefighter from Canmore, Alta., has responded to numerous collisions between vehicles and deer, moose and elk in the 15 years he’s been in the area.

Some of them have been horrific.

“The worst accidents are when large ungulates … get hit by a sedan-style vehicle (that) takes the legs out on the animal and the animal comes through the windshield,” Cipollone said in a recent interview.

“That’s absolutely the worst-case scenario. Secondary to that is where people swerve to avoid a large animal … but then inadvertently drive into ongoing traffic.”

The Trans-Canada Highway inside Banff National Park is lined on either side with 2.4-metre-high, reinforced wire fences. There are six wildlife overpasses and 38 underpasses to protect humans and animals.

“My impression is that we are seeing next to no collisions in the fenced areas and we’re seeing most of the collisions outside of the fenced areas,” said Cipollone.

But there are still wildlife fatalities, says the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, which has been a longtime advocate for animal protection.

Hilary Young, senior Alberta program manager, said the most dangerous spot is a 40-kilometre stretch of highway between Banff and the Kananaskis River to the east.

“There’s around 60 or so wildlife mortalities because of vehicle collisions every year. We’re talking elk, deer, grizzly bears, wolves and occasionally cougars,” she said as she looked down from a highway overpass on a long line of cars, trucks and semis below.

As many as 30,000 vehicles drive through the area every day, she said.

The first wildlife overpass in the park was installed in 1996. Young said it’s made a huge difference in animal safety. Fencing keeps animals off the road and directs them towards the safe crossings.

“Over the span that they have existed, they’ve reduced wildlife mortality by 80 per cent, which is incredible. For deer alone and other ungulates, it’s 96 per cent, so they’re very effective.”

Young did say that it can take a while for certain species to get used to the crossings.

“Grizzlies usually take about five years to really start using them on a regular basis. Elk may start using them as they’re being built. They’re less discerning.”

Demand for more highway protection escalated in April when seven elk were hit and killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore.

Yellowstone to Yukon was thrilled when the Alberta government set aside $20 million for wildlife protection in its fall budget. A long-awaited overpass east of Canmore — a site of frequent collisions with wildlife — and an underpass in the Crownest Pass in southwestern Alberta are to be built.

“That particular location was identified because it’s a hot spot for collisions and specifically for species at risk, like grizzly bears,” said Young. “This new overpass in the Bow Valley will be the first outside of a national park in Alberta.”

A spokesperson for the Transportation Ministry said the department will continue to monitor the success of crossings through the Alberta Wildlife Watch program.

Darren Reeder, executive director of the Banff-Lake Louise Hospitality Association, said building more overpasses is the right thing to do.

“Wildlife overpasses have been an international statement in conservation leadership,” said Reeder.

“There have been over 200,000 wildlife movements in the 20 years that we’ve had wildlife passes in place. It’s protected wildlife from the effects of traffic, and we’ve seen mortality rates drop significantly.”

Construction on the new overpass is to begin in 2021.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jumbo Valley to be protected, ending decades-long dispute over proposed ski resort

Development rights permanently retired for site of proposed year-round ski resort west of Invermere

Wrangle the Chute returns to Kicking Horse

Wrangle the Chute will be returning to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort from… Continue reading

Kicking Horse Update Friday January 17

Kicking Horse reports 10 cm of snow in the last 24 hours,with… Continue reading

Highway Update Friday January 17

On Highway 1, watch for slippery sections between Three Valley Avalanche Gate… Continue reading

Golden nominated for Kraft Hockeyville 2020

Nominations close on Feb. 9.

UBC, Iranian-Canadian community create memorial scholarship in honour of victims

The Jan. 8 crash killed 176 people, including 57 Canadians

Disrespectful that Horgan won’t meet during northern B.C. tour: hereditary chief

Na’moks said he was frustrated Horgan didn’t meet with the chiefs

Canucks extend home win streak to 8 with 4-1 triumph over Sharks

Victory lifts Vancouver into top spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

BC Green Party leader visits northern B.C. pipeline protest site

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada, British Columbia and First Nations

‘Extensive’ work planned at Big Bar landslide ahead of salmon, steelhead migration

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan visited the site of the slide from June

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Royal deal clears way for Harry, Meghan part-time Canada move: experts

Keith Roy of the Monarchist League of Canada said the deal is exactly what Harry and Meghan asked for

Most Read