University of Calgary

Banff highway ecology highlighted

UToday HomeApril 4, 2012

Grizzly sow with cubs on Temple Overpass. Photo by HighwayWilding.orgGrizzly bears, such as this sow with her cubs on Temple Overpass, along with elk and cougars have used overpasses and underpasses more than 200,000 times to cross the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park since 1996. Photo by HighwayWilding.orgThe University of Calgary-based Miistakis Institute, in partnership with Parks Canada, the Woodcock Foundation, the Wilburforce Foundation, and the Western Transportation Institute have launched one of the world’s most current and comprehensive resources for transportation planners and decision makers in roadway ecology, an emerging field of study.

The website, www.highwaywilding.org, will raise awareness and improve decision making around road development in sensitive ecological areas such as national parks and beyond.

Showcasing pioneering research from Banff National Park’s world-famous highway animal crossing structures, the website also features wildlife images, practical information for wildlife managers, Google Earth fly-through components, and a number of short webisodes made by award-winning Canadian filmmaker Leanne Allison espousing the value of wildlife crossing structures.

“On behalf of our partners and our expert researchers, I am delighted to share with the world stories and knowledge relating to highway ecology policy and science, along with an abundance of compelling videos and imagery,” says Danah Duke, executive director of the Miistakis Institute in the Faculty of Environmental Design.

The website was created by the Miistakis Institute as part of a five-year, $1 million contribution agreement made by Parks Canada to continue wildlife mitigation research and monitoring on twinned portions of the Trans-Canada Highway through Banff National Park. In total, over $1.7 million will be invested by all partners on research and monitoring as well as public education projects.

Highways pose significant challenges to wildlife by interrupting movement patterns, keeping animals from important habitat, causing genetic isolation, and by direct mortality from collisions with motor vehicles. The effects reach beyond individual wildlife populations and pose broader conservation, economic and social consequences, including a considerable human safety risk from wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Pair of Elk at Castle Underpass. Photo by HighwayWilding.orgWildlife mortality has decreased by 80 per cent in places where crossing structures and wildlife fencing exist, such as the Castle Underpass. Photo by HighwayWilding.org“We are hopeful that information contained on this website will act as a catalyst as we move towards integrating and reconciling the transportation needs of both people and wildlife in Canada and the world-over,” says Tony Clevenger, one of the world’s preeminent roadway ecology scientists and the leader of the Highway Wilding Project research team.

Since 1996, animals such as grizzly bears, elk and cougars have successfully used overpasses and underpasses more than 200,000 times to cross the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park, and wildlife mortality has decreased by 80 per cent in places where crossing structures and wildlife fencing exist.