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

Surrey students donate 2,000 pairs of socks

Initiative part of the Leo Club program

Surrey hosts grand-opening ceremony of North Surrey arena complex

‘Accessible’ facility features three sheets of ice

Lord Tweedsmuir tops Tamanawis in all-cat fight for Surrey RCMP Classic title

Panthers’ Jaeden Reid was named MVP at all-Surrey boys tournament

Trade to hometown team a ‘blessing in disguise’ for Surrey Eagles defenceman

Kieran O’Hearn gets to play in front of family, who live just minutes from South Surrey Arena

White Rock solid waste open house scheduled

Event to take place next month

After cashing in on QB gambles, Chiefs and 49ers to clash in Super Bowl

KC beats Tennessee, San Francisco dispatches Green Bay to reach NFL title game

VIDEO: SPCA and RCMP remove several animals, including pig, at private animal rescue in Langley

Home at 5500 block of 216th Street has undergone multiple seizures over the past five years

B.C. VIEWS: Few clouds on Horgan’s horizon

Horgan’s biggest challenge in the remainder of his term will be to keep the economy humming along

Victoria family focuses on ‘letting go, enjoying time together’ after dad gets dementia

Walter Strauss has developed an interest in music and now takes line dancing classes

B.C. forest industry grasps for hope amid seven-month strike, shutdowns, changes

Some experts say this could be worse for forestry than the 2008 financial crisis

Northern B.C. RCMP investigating alleged sexual assault in downtown Smithers

One person was transported by ambulance to hospital following RCMP investigation at Sedaz

Vancouver police probe second homicide in less than 24 hours

Woman was found dead in her Gastown home

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

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

Most Read