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

RCMP
RCMP know of witnesses to Oct. 15 attack; want them to come forward

Appeal made to their ‘sense of right and wrong’

BC ELECTION
Liberal and NDP leaders’ election tours swing through North Island

Wilkinson holds forestry rally and Horgan talks wild salmon

MARS Wildlife Hospital just got approval for a new ambassador bird. They are hoping the community will help come up with a name for the bird, currently known as Barred Owl 783. Here, Barred Owl 783 stretches their wings as they’re accompanied by MARS President Warren Warttig on Oct. 11, 2020. Photo by Marissa Tiel – Campbell River Mirror
Hoot, hoot: MARS Wildlife Centre looks for name for new ambassador bird

Barred Owl 783 came to the wildlife centre after crashing into a window last fall

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

(File photo)
RCMP: Two men face charges in reported Parksville fatal hit-and-run

Investigation into man’s death began in August of 2019

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Most Read