While the idea of
wildlife-specific crossings is nothing new to Banff National Park, it is only
in the last decade (and more predominantly in recent years) that scientists,
parks staff and researchers are beginning to comprehend and effectively utilize
the 30-odd years of research collected along Banff National Park’s section of
the Trans-Canada Highway.
Going back to the mid 1970s,
when the onslaught of ever increasing human traffic began, it was decided that
the amount of both human and wildlife fatalities due to highway collisions was
simply no longer acceptable. It was then that Parks Canada began to come up
with an ambitious plan; one that they most likely never imagined would make
Banff the world leader for animal specific crossings and attract researchers
from around the globe to come and observe their achievements.
By 1981, with highway traffic
increasing considerably on an annual basis it was time for major upgrades to
Completely bisecting the
park through the Bow Valley at a crucial area for wildlife feeding, mating and
dispersion of offspring, the Trans-Canada needed to be transformed from two
lanes into four while implementing a tangible plan that allowed wildlife the
same right of passage as the millions of visiting motorists. The goal was to
maintain ecological integrity amongst the parks diverse wildlife population.
In those plans it was decided
to build 22 underpasses and two overpasses over 45 kilometres of fenced-in
highway, as well as to create a progressive visitor education program that
would combat wildlife feeding and reduce the speed limit to 90 km/h.
effectively gave Banff more wildlife passages than any other place in the world
and positively modified visitor behavior to cut ungulate animal collisions by
over 96 per cent and non-hoofed animal collisions by over 80 per cent (given
that bears occasionally still climb over fences and animals such as coyotes and
wolves still find the need to sporadically dig under them).
Research using a mix of both primitive and modern day
techniques continue to this day, giving researchers a wealth of data on which
to study the movement and habits of all animals that now commute using these
Freshly racked sand pads
provide paw and hoof prints identifying different types of animals while silent
remote digital cameras snap four photographs in rapid succession at one second
intervals, recording behavior and how animals react while using crossings.
Strategically strung barbed wire retains fur or hair samples which can be used
to track individual animals and their anatomy through DNA testing.