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

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Photo submitted/ Millet In Bloom
Town of Millet declared Best Blooming Community

The Town of Millet is being recognized for their efforts to meet the challenges of 2020.

Many rural municipalities were concerned about a proposed reduction to their industrial revenues, but Alberta’s Municipal Affairs minister has come up with an alternative solution. (Photo contributed)
Province and rural municipalities agree on a plan to support Alberta’s energy industry

Creating new wells or pipelines would result in a three year ‘tax holiday’

Paved path to the accessible dock at Agur Lake Camp. Photo submitted/ Debbie Schneider.
B.C. Camp extremely grateful for a Calmar Business’ generous donation

B.C.’s only fully accessible campground floored by a Calmar Business’ generosity.

Executive Director of Agape Kate Halas (left) receives $1000 from Sgt. Eric Christensen (right) on behalf of Agape. Photo/ Shaela Dansereau.
Former Wetaskiwin Peace Officer wins provincial award; gives back to Wetaskiwin community

Eric Christensen has won the Alberta Association of Community Peace Officers Award of Excellence.

In this photo provided by Shannon Kiss, smoke from the CalWood Fire billows, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, as seen from Gunbarrel, Colo. (Shannon Kiss via AP)
‘First guys out:’ Western Canadian air tanker fleet busy despite drop in wildfires

CEO believes wildfires have become more dangerous in recent years as people live closer to where they start

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

robbery
UPDATE: Suspect identified in early morning shooting

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen (Alberta government photo)
Big boost for Alberta college agriculture research

The $2-million agreement to benefit Lethbridge College’s applied research team

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Canadian couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Employee Sophia Lovink shows off a bag of merchandise in Toronto on Thursday, June 11, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Canada gets C-average grade on 2nd year of cannabis legalization

Cannabis Council of Canada releases report card on federal government and legalization

Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Restrictions on non-essential travel between Canada and the United States are being extended until at least Nov. 21. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
Non-essential travel restrictions at Canada-U.S. border extended to at least Nov. 21

The restrictions do not apply to those providing essential services in either country

(The Canadian Perss)
Banff wolves have lower survival rate due to hunting, trapping outside park boundary

Researchers looked at 72 radio-collared wolves in the national park from 1987 to August 2019

Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Miramar Regional Park in Miramar, Fla., Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is still hopeful about the Keystone pipeline if there’s a change in government in the U.S. next month, saying Alberta has been engaging with American officials from both sides of the aisle. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Carolyn Kaster
Alberta premier says he’s still hopeful about Keystone, even if Biden elected

The Alberta government has agreed to invest about US$1.1 billion as equity in the project

Most Read