Measures sought to help protect wildlife crossing Highway 1 outside Banff
A group of concerned residents and conservationists are seeking changes to some of the wilderness areas outside Banff National Park to help keep drivers and animals safe on the Trans-Canada Highway.
Cinthia Nemoto, who lives in Canmore, was driving through the area on Sunday when she saw the aftermath of a serious crash involving a number of elk and a semi-tractor-trailer.
“We saw the seven elk dead on the highway plus the semi-truck that hit them,” she says. “It’s not unusual here to see accidents in the Bow Valley but that one, because of the number of elk and the way that the semi-truck was damaged, it shocked us.”
Nemoto says she is particularly concerned because of the extent of the damage inflicted to the semi-truck and how that might have been if a regular vehicle was involved.
“If it was a regular car, our car, if it was me driving, most likely I wouldn’t be alive right now.”
Hilary Young, with the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, a group that helps people and wildlife live in co-existence all the way up and down the Rocky Mountains, is working on a plan to help wildlife populations safely cross the Trans-Canada Highway.
“The Bow Valley, in Alberta, is one of the major east-west connectors for wildlife.”
She says Highway 1, considered to be a barrier for wildlife in the area, is one of the major causes of mortality for bears, wolves and other animals.
“We are looking to bring some of the highly successful highway structures that are in Banff to the highway east of Banff. We’ve been advocating for highway mitigation for about 40 km east from the park gate all the way down to the Kananaskis River.”
In Canada’s mountain parks, there are a large number of overpasses and underpasses along with associated fencing to keep animals off the road and direct them towards the safe crossings.
“Since they were built, highway wildlife mortality due to collisions has reduced by 80 percent on average for large mammals generally and 96 percent for deer and elk. So they’re highly successful and ultimately, the savings from collisions pay for the structures themselves.”
Young says Y2Y and a number of different organizations have been looking for crossing structures east of the park for some time too.
“There is always highway mortality along these stretches. The RCMP estimated that in 2018, just in the Canmore stretch of the Bow Valley, there were approximately 12 elk deaths," said Young. "
According to Young, there have been 15 elk killed on the Canmore section of the Trans-Canada Highway in the last two months alone. "There is certainly a need for mitigation.”
In the wake of the crash, Nemoto has started a petition to make sure the highway is safe for anyone who uses the highway to get to the Rockies.
She also wants to see a speed limit reduction and fencing, similar to what is in Banff National Park, to ensure wildlife can cross safely too.
“Ultimately, the best thing we can have here is an overpass … an overpass in Lac Des Arc would be terrific.”
You can sign the change.org petition HERE.
(With files from Bill Macfarlane)