University of Calgary

Underpassing grade

UToday HomeNovember 5, 2012

By Jessica Wallace

Underpasses have demonstrated a significant reduction in the total number of wildlife-vehicle collisions per year. Photo courtesy of the Miistakis InstituteUnderpasses have demonstrated a significant reduction in the total number of wildlife-vehicle collisions per year. Photo courtesy of the Miistakis InstituteA joint Miistakis Institute and Western Transportation Institute (WTI) study demonstrates the wildlife underpass in Dead Man’s Flats is improving human safety by reducing the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions in the area.

The underpass southeast of Canmore has proven more cost effective than the societal costs paid for damaged vehicles, human injury and death, and lost hunting revenues.

An analysis of the underpass, which includes three kilometres of fencing along a section of the Trans-Canada Highway, demonstrates a significant reduction in the total number of wildlife-vehicle collisions per year, from 12 to three accidents per year, since the underpass was installed in 2004.

The Highway Wildlife Mitigation Opportunities for the Trans-Canada Highway in the Bow Valley report clearly demonstrates the cost effectiveness of the wildlife underpass, having reduced the average annual societal cost by over 90 per cent – from $129,000 to $18,000 per year.

“The results of this study are particularly relevant as this is the first time that a study in North America has demonstrated the savings realized by building wildlife crossing structures on a major roadway,” says Tony Clevenger, author of the report.

The report identifies five other sites for potential crossing structures and fencing on the Trans-Canada Highway within the Bow Valley, where current annual costs due to wildlife-vehicle collisions are in excess of $20,000 per year.

Funded by the Kananaskis Summit Environmental Legacy Fund established in 2002 at the G8 Summit in Kananaskis, and administered by the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation, the study clearly suggests highway crossing structures are no longer infrastructure reserved only for protected areas and parks.

To capture this information, Miistakis, WTI and Parks Canada created an infographic to illustrate how wildlife crossing structures work, the volume of animals using them in Banff National Park, and the cost effectiveness of expanding or building roadways with both people and animals in mind.

The Miistakis Institute is an independent, non-profit charitable organization affiliated with the University of Calgary that brings together people and ideas to promote healthy communities and landscapes.