Animals have a hard enough time surviving in the wild these days: the climate is changing, weather patterns are increasing in severity and food supply is often scarce. Add to this the ever-encroaching human who continues to gobble up every last piece of land that remains on the planet for our own consumption and it’s a tough road indeed. Sometimes, however, that road may be easier to traverse than others.
In countries like Canada, where wildlife plays a significant role in daily life, particularly in remote northern regions of the country, wildlife overpasses have been constructed to allow bears, moose and elk — just to name a few — to cross major roadways safely and securely. Wondering if it works? In Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, since monitoring began in 1996, wild animals have crossed the 35 underpasses and six overpasses more than 200,000 times.
This data doesn’t account for those animals that don’t cross safely, or that aren’t near the overpass to take advantage, but it’s encouraging data nonetheless, particularly when roadways are heavy with constant traffic, are hundreds of miles long and cut between an animal’s migration path, or a major water or food source. Most often, animals are forced to cross a busy roadway simply because they are unable to figure out another way, get confused or are acting out of pure instinct or fear. Sadly, an astonishing one million animals are killed each day on roadways across the United States, and that’s just one country.
While most of us have experienced a close encounter with a wild animal while driving and have probably witnessed the unfortunate sight of roadkill, we continue to get behind the wheel, drive away and hope for the best. As human population growth and global development continue at unprecedented rates, however, wildlife will be faced with increasing roadways and speeding vehicles taxing their already sensitive ecosystems and ways of life. An encounter with a wild animal while driving, particularly large animals like moose or elk, can also have a devastating impact on the driver, commonly injuring the driver and leaving the car either destroyed or severely damaged upon impact.
Clearly there is a need to remedy this problem on many levels. We, as the creators of these vehicles and massive road networks, have the greater responsibility to, at the very least, blend into these natural areas we’re developing on, ensuring that other species aren’t left completely helpless. Wildlife overpasses are a good place to start and they’re in the best interest of humans and animals alike. After all, we share this Earth and animals have just as much right to move around freely as we do.
Check out some amazing wildlife overpasses from around the world.
Photo Credit: Wikipedia